Jumbo shrimp. Buy and save. Jobless recovery. Americans are on Full Oxymoron Alert these days, as we read and hear about this “jobless recovery.” Recovery for whom?
The unemployment rate is high and growing higher, nearing an official 10 percent—which is always lower than the reality of impoverished underemployed and “discouraged workers” who have stopped bothering to officially register. Since this recession began, seven million Americans have lost their jobs.
Why aren’t seven million of us big enough to fail?
If stimulus packages for corporate sinkholes are good enough for the American taxpayer, why can’t we find $5.4 billion to create minimum wage jobs, with full health care benefits, for the 216,000 Americans who lost their jobs in August? Coincidentally, $5.4 billion is the amount the Pentagon will spend next year on unmanned vehicles, such as the Predator, which is killing so many civilians in Pakistan and turning our friends into our sworn enemies.
If the Pentagon “burn rate” for the dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is in excess of $40 billion per month, why can’t we manage to staunch the outflow of jobs in public education? War spending doesn’t include the wages or benefits for the 190,000 troops involved, since that expense is covered in the $900 billion DoD budget, a figure that includes items DoD leaves out, such as nuclear weapons and satellite costs, which are part of Department of Energy and NASA budgets, respectively.
On September 4, Raytheon Missile Systems was awarded a $93,851,886 contract for a few missiles. Which Americans lost their jobs so some Raytheon executives and stockholders could make a killing? We also saw 90 killed by a U.S.-made, U.S.-launched missile in Afghanistan, many of them civilians. That $93,000,000 could have created almost 2,000 modest-paying, full health care jobs. Instead, it will create a handful of jobs (military spending creates fewer jobs than any sector of our economy), obscene war profits for a few wealthy people, more deaths overseas and thus more enemies who hate us. Many other Pentagon contracts amounting to many scores of $millions were awarded that same day, as they are every business day.
The day before, September 3, McDonnell Douglas Corp. was awarded a $102,333,333 contract for contractors. Since it has been reported that contractors are often paid more than $200,000 per year, plus full benefits, we could generously say that contract creates perhaps 400 jobs for Pentagon contractors doing God-knows-what in Central Asia or the Middle East, making more people angry at the U.S. Instead, that same amount of money could have created another 2,000 moderate salary jobs in America performing sustainable, life-enhancing human services. This one contract on one day helps to lose more than 1,500 American jobs and generate hate against the U.S.
No, I am not an economist. I am just a professor in the field of Conflict Resolution, trained to approach problems with an open mind and a brainstorming stance. We need some brainstorms in our country. People are hurting and our direction isn’t changing. When I grew up in hockey country in Minnesota, my father was our Peewee coach. He told us, “Whenever we are losing, we are going to change how we play.” Our team, the Tigers, won the Peewee championship that year.
Surely we have some certified smart people who can think outside the Wall Street-Pentagon box and start spending taxpayer funds—few of which come from corporations, most of which come from hard-working middle-class Americans—so that we see some recovery where it counts. Always change a losing game. We are losing. Change is overdue.
Tom H. Hastings (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of PeaceVoice and a founder of Whitefeather Peace Community in Portland, Oregon. He is a core faculty in the Portland State University Conflict Resolution graduate program.