There Is No Labor Shortage, Only Labor Exploitation

by Sonali Kolhatkar 


For the past few months, Republicans have been waging a ferocious political battle to end federal unemployment benefits, based upon stated desires of saving the U.S. economy from a serious labor shortage. The logic, in the words of Republican politicians like Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, goes like this: “the government pays folks more to stay home than to go to work,” and therefore, “[p]aying people not to work is not helpful.” The conservative Wall Street Journal has been beating the drum for the same argument, saying recently that it was a “terrible blunder” to pay jobless benefits to unemployed workers.

If the hyperbolic claims are to be believed, one might imagine American workers are luxuriating in the largesse of taxpayer-funded payments, thumbing their noses at the earnest “job creators” who are taking far more seriously the importance of a post-pandemic economic growth spurt.

It is true that there are currently millions of jobs going unfilled. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just released statistics showing that there were 9.3 million job openings in April and that the percentage of layoffs decreased while resignations increased. Taking these statistics at face value, one could conclude this means there is a labor shortage.

But, as economist Heidi Shierholz explained in a New York Times op-ed, there is only a labor shortage if employers raise wages to match worker demands and subsequently still face a shortage of workers. Shierholz wrote, “When those measures [of raising wages] don’t result in a substantial increase in workers, that’s a labor shortage. Absent that dynamic, you can rest easy.”

Remember the subprime mortgage housing crisis of 2008 when economists and pundits blamed low-income homeowners for wanting to purchase homes they could not afford? Perhaps this is the labor market’s way of saying, if you can’t afford higher salaries, you shouldn’t expect to fill jobs.

Or, to use the logic of another accepted capitalist argument, employers could liken the job market to the surge pricing practices of ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft. After consumers complained about hiked-up prices for rides during rush hour, Uber explained, “With surge pricing, Uber rates increase to get more cars on the road and ensure reliability during the busiest times. When enough cars are on the road, prices go back down to normal levels.” Applying this logic to the labor market, workers might be saying to employers: “When enough dollars are being offered in wages, the number of job openings will go back down to normal levels.” In other words, workers are surge-pricing the cost of their labor.

But corporate elites are loudly complaining that the sky is falling—not because of a real labor shortage, but because workers are less likely now to accept low-wage jobs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce insists that “[t]he worker shortage is real,” and that it has risen to the level of a “national economic emergency” that “poses an imminent threat to our fragile recovery and America’s great resurgence.” In the Chamber’s worldview, workers, not corporate employers who refuse to pay better, are the main obstacle to the U.S.’s economic recovery.

Longtime labor organizer and senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies Bill Fletcher Jr. explained to me in an email interview that claims of a labor shortage are an exaggeration and that, actually, “we suffered a minor depression and not another great recession,” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In Fletcher’s view, “The so-called labor shortage needs to be understood as the result of tremendous employment reorganization, including the collapse of industries and companies.”

[Read On]

Capitalists Consolidate Control Over U.S. Farmland

By Ted Kelly 

The amount of farmland in the United States has been in steady decline for most of the 21st century. While roughly 40% of the country’s land area remains devoted to agriculture, 14 million acres of farmland were lost to ecological devastation or development between 2012 and 2017. (American Farmland Trust) At least 2 million additional acres have been lost every year since then. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Capitalists consolidate control over U.S. farmland – Workers World


Petition to the New U.S. Administration: End Economic Sanctions in the Face of the Global Pandemic

Sanctions Kill is asking everyone to sign its new petition to the Biden administration and Congress. To sign, go to sanctionskill.org/petition.

We write to you because we are deeply concerned about the impact of U.S. sanctions on many countries that are suffering the dire consequences of COVID-19.

Petition to the new U.S. administration: End economic sanctions in the face of the global pandemic – Workers World


IF YOU ENJOY AND ENDORSE WHAT LEFT OF LEFT IS ABOUT, FEEL FREE TO CONTRIBUTE AT PAYPAL.ME/HUDSONMEDIA – THANK YOU!

~ Steve, editor

Massive Inequality Is a Feature of Capitalism, Not a Bug (+2 more)

The Biden administration may usher in a new period of reform, but history shows that it’s unlikely to last if our economic system remains intact.

RICHARD D. WOLFF

To grasp the sheer magnitude of U.S. economic inequality in recent years, consider its two major stock market indices: the Standard and Poor (S&P) 500 and Nasdaq. Over the last 10 years, the values of shares listed on them grew spectacularly. The S&P 500 went from roughly 1,300 points to over 3,800 points, almost tripling. The Nasdaq index over the same period went from 2,800 points to 13,000 points, more than quadrupling. Times were good for the 10 percent of Americans who own 80 percent of stocks and bonds. In contrast, the real median weekly wage rose barely over 10 percent across the same 10-year period. The real federal minimum wage fell as inflation diminished its nominal $7.25 per hour, officially fixed and kept at that rate since 2009.

Massive Inequality Is a Feature of Capitalism, Not a Bug – In These Times


Rev. William Barber: The Fight for a $15 Minimum Wage Is a Fight for Racial Justice

Democrats need to stop playing games and use their majorities to pass a $15 minimum wage right now—we can’t wait any longer.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER

Sixty-two million people in the United States make less than $15 an hour. And here’s the truth: the fight to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 is as important as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For Black people, it’s taken us 400 years to get to $7.25 an hour. We can’t wait any longer. People in Appalachia can’t wait any longer. Poor white people, brown people, we cannot wait any longer. And we won’t be silent anymore. 

Rev. William Barber: The Fight for a $15 Minimum Wage Is a Fight for Racial Justice – In These Times


Can America’s Soul Be Saved?

You know that your country is caught in an endless loop of repetitive thinking when, almost 20 years after you invaded and occupied a distant land, beginning a war you’ve been incapable of winning despite massive “surges” of troops, contractors, CIA operatives, as well as air power, the Afghanistan Study Group, a congressionally mandated crew led by a retired Marine general who once commanded U.S. forces in that very land, recommends that the official date for the withdrawal of all American troops (but not planes, drones, or contractors), May 21st, be abandoned in the name of peace and the war fought on. (Consider that, by the way, a sentence worthy in length of such a never-ending war.)

Beyond Donald Trump – TomDispatch.com


IF YOU ENJOY AND ENDORSE WHAT LEFT OF LEFT IS ABOUT, FEEL FREE TO CONTRIBUTE AT PAYPAL.ME/HUDSONMEDIA – THANK YOU!

~ Steve, editor