Incessant White House claims of creating over 4 million jobs must wear pretty thin if you are one of the 12.5 million jobless Americans spending long days sending out resumes, knocking on doors, and wondering why the telephone never rings. Hearing the excuse that Republicans are guilty for the national unemployment rate is wearing pretty thin, too, as the months and years pass. A jobless rate of 8.1% is not progress. 8.1% is where we started in February 2009, after Barack Obama completed his first full month on the job.
Before he was sworn in, our president-elect offered unemployed Americans this worst case scenario:
The economy has lost 760,000 jobs this year — and some forecasters expect the unemployment rate to exceed 8 percent by the end of next year.¹
The president delivered on his prediction. Since then broad, arbitrary time frames, big numbers, and vague phrases with confusing explanations like “jobs saved or created” have characterized White House damage control. We recently heard from the Labor Department that the private sector added 130,000 jobs in April. Secretary Solis noted that layoffs are on the decline.² Shortly after, her department released Mass Layoffs – April 2012, which showed that 135,600 workers were involved in layoffs last month.³
There is a lot more to the national unemployment rate than the number of jobless Americans, a figure being manipulated so the president can take credit but still blame opposition lawmakers for not passing jobs legislation backed by the White House. Meanwhile, groups like unemployed older workers are left out in the cold, waiting for this president to leave office so we can get things moving again.
Older workers who lost their jobs and savings are being pushed aside by initiatives that focus on the young and on special interests. Retraining, education, and other get back to work programs are not going to do much for laid-off managers in their mid-50s. A sagging job market has doubled the number of unemployed older workers since 2007:
In 2007, less than a quarter of unemployed older workers were unemployed for longer than 27 weeks, as shown in figure 2. By 2011, this number had increased to 55 percent. Moreover, by 2011 over one-third of all unemployed older workers had been unemployed for over a year.4
There could be a great opportunity on the horizon for the president and for Democrats who are brave or foolhardy enough to keep supporting him. With the individual health insurance mandate on the Supreme Court’s plate as early as next month, a decision that individuals and businesses can be forced to support the health insurance industry would be the perfect segue to a hiring mandate, perhaps targeting the long-term jobless and unemployed older workers.
The American Jobs Act included a carrot and a stick for business owners, a $4,000 hiring credit for scooping up the long-term unemployed and a prohibition on businesses that do not hire them. How hard would it be if Democrats win big in November to take the next step and mandate that when businesses hire, they hire the unemployed to fix our national jobs emergency? They could even take the concept to the next level, and require businesses to hire based on their financial statements. Mr. Obama would probably want to start big, with large businesses judged to be profiting unfairly while older workers remain jobless.
This would be an easy one for the president and Democrats in Congress to hand their supporters. Behind the national unemployment rate are 12.5 million Americans, over 5 million of whom have been out of work for a very long time. Tax credits have not done the trick, and the Democratic Party line calls for doling out one’s fare share and accepting shared responsibility. Just think of the campaign banners: Obama Will Guarantee Your Right to Work, Obama: Making Sure Wealthy Employers Do Their Fair Share, and Democrats Take Care of Your Health and Your Paycheck. We could try it out in states like Nancy Pelosi’s California with its 10.9% jobless rate and Harry Reid’s Nevada with its 11.7% unemployed. This would be a win-win for Democrats, folks.
Does this sound crazy? Are you thinking this could never happen? How many of you business owners out there are sweating the Supreme Court’s health care decision? Bet you never thought things would go that far, either.