The Growing Underclass In America.

There are currently 14.6 million Americans who are out of work, and that number likely doesn’t include millions more, such as the self-employed, who have seen their businesses diminish to virtually nothing. But before you blame the current Administration, take a look at the monthly unemployment claims beginning in January 2008. By the time President Obama was inaugurated, the new claims had grown to more than 750,000/month. Yet despite having to fight Republicans every step of the way, President Obama and Congress began to turn things around. In fact, in May of this year, we added 433,000 jobs.

The real question is, without enormous structural changes to our nation, what kind of jobs will be available?

Even before the Great Recession, most of our jobs were in the so-called service sector. And most of these jobs pay less than $25,000/year. The list includes fast food workers, restaurant workers, hosts and hostesses, dishwashers, cashiers, amusement park attendants, movie theater ushers and ticket-takers, farm workers, gaming dealers, bartenders, personal and home care aides, parking lot attendants, lifeguards, ski patrol, garment pressers, laundry & dry-cleaning workers, child care workers, maids, and elderly caregivers, receptionists, secretaries and maintenance “engineers”.

The result is that approximately 35 percent of the U.S. workers make $25,000/year or less! (The national poverty level is $21,756 for a family of four.) And many careers that were once considered good jobs, such as construction, don’t pay much better. Construction workers make only $11/hour to $15/hour.

Our nation has been bleeding relatively high-paying manufacturing jobs since the 1980s (7.7 million between 1986 and 2001). However, under the Obama Administration, the U.S. economy has actually begun to reverse that trend. New data shows that we have added more than 180,000 manufacturing jobs in 2010. Still, the majority of good jobs are in medicine, law and government. Indeed, of the top 15 highest paying jobs in America, 14 are in medicine.

Lowering taxes for corporations and the wealthy as Republicans demand won’t help create new higher-paying jobs. That will only ensure that the wealthy will make even more money and pay fewer taxes. It will also relegate even more of our citizens to the growing underclass.

A better option is to follow the path of FDR, Truman and Eisenhower – raise taxes on the wealthy and the “too big to fail” by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire then use the additional revenue to rebuild our infrastructure and to create energy alternatives to foreign oil. That would create opportunities for construction companies, manufacturers and suppliers of materials. It would also incentify our corporations to invest their hoards of cash, and it would encourage our banks to open their vaults and make loans to small businesses. More important, it would put people back to work.