Regular readers of this site know that I am a big fan of Senator Jeff Sessions. Sessions has been the most effective opponent of the Senate Gang’s immigration bill; his opposition is based primarily on the damage that a massive influx of new, low-skill immigrants would do to America’s working men and women. Sessions has now embarked on a series of speeches on the economy, and how it has been devastated by the policies of the Obama administration. He delivered the first installment today. Here are excerpts:
I have directed my staff on the Budget Committee to conduct a detailed analysis of the economic conditions facing working Americans: their wages, their employment, their household finances. I will give a series of talks over the coming weeks looking at their financial condition and the state of our nation economically. I will also attempt to look at the causes leading to our current financial difficulties and suggest some steps to restore America’s financial future.
The sad fact is that the state of middle- and lower-income Americans is worsening on nearly every front. The slow growth of the economy (the slowest economic recovery from a recession since World War II) is restraining the normal upward movement in income that previous generations have experienced. And, if you don’t have a job, you’re twice as likely to only find part-time as full-time work—if you can find any work at all. …
Perhaps the single greatest source for economic anxiety for working Americans is the fear of losing their jobs.
It’s not just the unemployment rate, which remains too high at 7.3 percent in August 2013. It’s the number of people we all know who are working well below their potential because nothing is available that uses their job skills. It’s the number of people we know who have given up looking for work, or who are working part-time because nothing full-time is available for them.
Fewer people are working today than in 2007. That’s actual numbers—even though population has increased. Just before the recession hit in December of 2007, about 62.7 percent of the working-age population was working. If that same percentage was working today, we would have 154.1 million jobs. But we don’t. We have 144.2 million jobs and only 58.6 percent of the population is working.
In short, we’re missing 9.9 million jobs when we compare this economy to the one in 2007.
Here’s another way to look at the job problem: in 2007 we had 363,000 “discouraged workers”—people who had given up looking for work but had not yet disappeared from view by the Employment Security offices. Today we have 866,000. That an increase of 140 percent in six years.
Here’s still another barometer of middle class anxiety: we have 1,988,000 fewer full-time jobs today than in December of 2007. However, we have 3,627,000 more part-time jobs. People with part-time jobs are not counted as unemployed. …
Take a look at the median family’s income. The Census Bureau published new estimates of household income on Tuesday, August 17. They reported that the median income of American households, adjusted for inflation, stands at $51,017—lower than last year, lower than the year before, and, in fact, lower than any time since 1995. …
Many are concerned that the Federal Reserve is furthering the national wealth gap. Their “quantitative easing” has boosted wealth in the investor class but has not benefitted the working class. This is not the way our policies should work.
Another thing I would note is that our civil society today has certain weaknesses that we need to discuss. I will talk more about it in a separate speech, but let me share a few thoughts about why this weakness should concern us all.
Few social institutions are more important in helping us through difficult economic times than marriage. Marriage is disappearing in the bottom 50 percent of the income distribution. And, as it does, so does the presence of the father in the home. If you are in the bottom 50 percent and give birth, there is a greater than 50 percent chance that the father will not be living with you when the child comes home from the hospital. Perhaps, as many suggest, our welfare policies are exacerbating these trends.
Also worrying is the decline of charitable giving since 2007. Like the overall economy, this vital part of our social and economic system has failed to recover. Total charitable giving fell in 2008 to $303.8 billion from $326.6 billion in 2007. As of the end of 2012, total giving was only $316.2 billion… still 3 percent below its level of 6 years ago.
The road we are on today leads to the continued erosion of civil society, the continued expansion of the welfare state, and the permanent entrenchment of a political class that profits from the growth of government. It is time that we recognized both the disastrous conditions facing working Americans and the moral obligation we have to replace government dependency with the freedom and dignity that comes from work and independence.
In the weeks to come, Sessions will have more to say about solutions to the grave crisis in which we find ourselves.