Economics For Real People
The economy soared from July to September, growing by 7.2 percent. The stock market is up. Profits are up. Stock options and CEO salaries are up. The president says his tax cuts are working and we're on the right track.
But whose economy is he celebrating? Sure, the CEO economy is perking up. Millionaires, who will pocket an average $28,000 in tax cuts this year, are doing just fine.
But the kitchen table economy -- the things that parents worry about at night around the kitchen table -- is still in trouble. Jobs are down -- over three million private sector jobs have been lost since Bush took office. Nine million people are out of work. Another five million get by on part-time work because they can't find full time jobs. Incomes are down. Even during the torrid growth of the last three months, the economy continued to shed more jobs than it created.
Health care costs are up -- at staggering double digit rates. Companies are forcing workers to bear more of the burden, or dropping plans altogether. Retirement savings are still reeling from the stock market crash. Half of all workers have no pension at work, but those that do are up against companies bailing out of guaranteed pensions while cutting retirement contributions. School budgets are taking a hit across the nation, with preschool and after school programs -- essential to working parents -- among the first to take the hit. Tuitions at pubic universities are soaring -- up 14 percent last year alone -- as colleges scramble to cover cutbacks in state contributions. Interest rates are low, but families are deeper in debt. And personal bankruptcies are at record levels.
With the largest budget deficits in recorded history, the dollar losing 20 percent of its value since Bush took office, and interest rates near modern lows, it isn't surprising that the economy finally started to grow. But Bush has given away the store in tax cuts -- taking the country from projected $5 trillion 10 year surpluses to $5 trillion deficits -- while not doing squat to relieve the pressures felt by workaday people across this country.
Trickle down economics doesn't. Mr. Bush's tax cuts are creating more jobs in Shanghai than in Saginaw, while digging this country deeper in debt.
We need an economics that puts people first. Repeal those top-end tax cuts and use that money to put people back to work on investments that we need. Build schools and stop laying off teachers and police. Invest in renewable energy and efficiency, reduce our dependence on Persian Gulf oil, lower electric bill, and capture the green markets of the future. Modernize our roads, mass transit and aging water and waste systems. Make the economy cleaner and more efficient. Provide a drug benefit under Medicare and use the buying power to get the best price for everyone. Commit to a full employment economy, allow workers to form unions and empower them to gain a fair share of the profits and productivity that they are already generating.
Make the economy work for working people and the CEOs will do just fine. But surely we've learned by now that if you lard the benefits on the top, the yacht club can enjoy the party, while the rest of us pay the price.
President Bush and Treasury Secretary Jack Snow say their "jobs and growth" tax cuts are starting to work and the economy is coming back. Yet, in Snow's own projection, the president will end his term in office with the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover in the Great Depression. The president's campaign coffers are filling with contributions from grateful millionaires. But one thing is clear. The economy they are celebrating isn't the economy that parents will worry over tonight.
Robert Borosage is co-director of the Campaign For America's Future.