Just the facts, nothing else

It Is the Worst of Times...

Depending on how you look at the situation, our national (and, to an extent, our state and local) economy is either in free-fall towards recession or, at best, is flat as a board. Either way, this spells potential bad news for working people and their families. In a recent edition of the AFL-CIO publication, America at Work, the staff laid out the stark facts. Whatever one’s political views, these depressing economic figures, unfortunately, speak for themselves.

  • Job growth record by Presidential Administration

  • Manufacturing jobs lost during the same period: 1.85 million (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—BLS)

  • Private-sector jobs lost during the same period: almost 2.3 million (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—BLS)

  • Long-term unemployed Americans without work for 27 weeks as of January, 2003: 1.7 million, up from 1.2 million without work for 27 weeks as of January, 2002 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—BLS).

  • Number of Americans who want jobs now, but cannot find them: 10 million (source: Economic Policy Institute—EPI)

  • U.S. consumer confidence level in February, 2003: 66%, the lowest in more than nine years (source: The Conference Board—TCB)

  • Number of states reporting budget gaps midway through fiscal year 2003: 36—led, of course, by California, with an approximate $38 billion budget shortfall (source: National Conference of State Legislatures—NCSL)

  • Real average hourly earnings increase for U.S. workers between January, 2002 and January, 2003: six cents! (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—BLS)

  • Number of Americans without health coverage in 2001: 41.2 million (source: U.S. Census Bureau—USCB)

  • Number of working-family Americans without health coverage in 2001: almost 33 million (USCB)

  • Number of American children without health coverage in 2001: 8.5 million (USCB)

  • Number of Americans in working families who lost health insurance in 2001: 1.66 million (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—BLS)

  • Portion of people without health insurance in 2001 who were Latino: 45% (source: The Commonwealth fund—TCF)

  • Portion of workers, in 2001, without health care coverage, whose income was less than $20,000: 49% (TCF)

  • The 2000 federal budget surplus: $236 billion (source: Office of Management and Budget—OMB)

  • The 2003 federal budget deficit: $400 billion (source: U.S. House Budget Committee—HBC)

  • U.S. 10-year budget-deficit projection, excluding war costs and Social Security Trust Fund resources: $1.2 trillion (source: Congressional Budget Office—CBO)

  • Amount of 401(k) savings lost in 2001: $175 billion (source: Institute for America’s Future—IAF)

  • Stock market value loss between March, 2000 and February, 2003: around $6.6 trillion (CBO)

  • Percentage of elderly Americans whose sole income in 2000 was Social Security: 18% (source: U.S. Social Security Administration)

  • Personal bankruptcies in fiscal year 2002: 1.5 million (source: American Bankruptcy Institute—ABI)

  • Increase in personal bankruptcies from fiscal year 2001: 7.7% (ABI)

  • Increase in average personal debt since 2000: 4.9% (ABI)

  • Potential revenue loss for states over the next 10 years if proposed tax cuts are enacted: $64 billion (source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities—CBPP)

  • Range of total 10-year funding loss to state and local governments if proposed tax policies make revenue bonds less attractive to investors: $75-$155 billion (source: California State Treasurer’s Office)

  • Percentage of Americans who approve of unions; from a February, 2003 national survey of 1,602 people: 66% (source: Peter Hart Research Associates)

These discouraging figures (and others) transcend political partisanship. The economy is broken, and millions and millions of hard-working Americans are suffering for it while the wealthiest among us not only continue to do well, but are getting additional and unneeded tax breaks. People’s “safety nets”—financial and medical—are being shredded faster than records at a corporate headquarters under indictment.

Both governmental and spending priorities are cockeyed. The grossly unfair proposed tax cuts (skewed heavily to the rich, at the expense of working people) could be much better spent on people. Even if the tax cuts are lowered, the hundreds of billions of dollars going to the wealthy and corporate America should be spent instead on Medicare drug benefits, repair and renovation of schools, pre-school facilities, a meaningful working-family tax rebate, our crumbling national infrastructure (roads, cities, facilities, building, etc.)—just to name some worthwhile priorities.

Thanks to IBEW Local 18  (my local -- GO BRYAN D'ARCY!)  for the original presentation of these statistics.