As the Senate dickers over the economic stimulus package, another nearly 600,000 Americans lost their jobs in January. A total of 11.6 million are now unemployed, a rate of 7.6 percent. January's job losses were spread out among the manufacturing, service, and construction sectors indicating continued broad-based weakness in the US economy. Only health care and education showed employment gains for the month.
Unfortunately, education is headed for a downturn in the coming months. With almost every state and many municipalities running severe budget deficits, school budgets are under strong pressure. Boston alone, says the Boston's Globe, is planning to cut 900 education jobs to deal with the city's expected deficit of as much as $140 million for the coming year. Expect that scenario to be repeated around the country as city after city is forced to make cuts. With taxpayers unable and unwilling to pay higher taxes on property that is falling in value, and income taxes falling as the unemployment numbers rise, there are few alternatives.
Most economists agree that unemployment will continue to rise throughout most, if not all of 2009. Not even quick passage of the President's economic stimulus can forestall the job losses completely at this point. Perhaps if it had been enacted earlier, but that's water under the bridge. Now, those same economists agree that the stimulus plan can only limit the damage and save a few million of the many jobs that will go away this year.
For a few million Americans, and the companies that make the goods they will still be able to buy, or the companies that loaned them money that they will still be able to pay back, that's a very good reason for Congress to stop their political gamesmanship and pass the bill. The bill has hundreds of billions in tax cuts that will put more cash into the pockets of the working Americans who need it. It has hundreds of billions designated for programs like infrastructure improvements that will create or save those extra 3 million or so jobs. And it has a relatively small percentage of the usual add-ons that get attached to every bill that been passed through congress in the last 30 years or more. The economic stimulus plan is the government bailout for the average citizen. Yet, it receives more opposition than bailouts of roughly the same size that were intended for Wall Street banks, and failed corporate giants.