Burying the Middle Class in Statistics

"Job growth surges in March," blared the headlines, and what a rose-colored rush of self-congratulation ensued! George W gloated like the boy who stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum, economists were high-fiving each other, editorialists hailed the "new boom," and you'd have thought the Bluebird of Happiness was singing in every backyard.

But even as Bush strutted atop of a made-for-TV platform that his staff had emblazoned with the slogan, "Strengthening America's Economy," the whole scene had a false feel to it, eerily similar to George's strut in his Top Gun costume last year aboard that aircraft carrier that his staff had emblazoned with the declaration, "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

Just as our troops are still mired in that bloody war, so are most Americans still mired in a low-wage economy that can't be fixed by presidential strut. For the Powers That Be to celebrate the addition of 300,000 jobs is ludicrous in an economy that has lost more than two million jobs since Bush took office and that continues to offshore our best-paying jobs.

If you peek beneath the headlines, you'll find that the number of out-of-work Americans actually went up by 200,000 in March, and the number of "underemployed" -- those wanting full-time work but only getting part-time jobs - was up by 300,000. Also of the ballyhooed new jobs that Bush claims to have created in March, nearly 50,000 are not new at all - they're the jobs of California supermarket workers who'd been on strike and have now returned to their old jobs.

Worse, what Bush and the Powers That Be don't want us noticing is that nearly all of March's job creation was in low-wage, no-benefit work that cannot sustain a middle-class way of life. Indeed, despite the gloating over March's job stats, average weekly earnings went down in March.

The real issue is not job numbers, but the decline in good jobs -- the very lifeblood of America's middle class.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of 'Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time To Take It Back,' on sale now from Viking Press.

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