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Obama And Retail: All The Wrong Friends

Obama seems to have picked up a new friend in the National Retail Federation (NRF) and, in the process, made a few million enemies in the form of retail workers able to see through the song and dance about “good jobs.”

Billy Wharton, Countercurrents.org

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Retailers seem to be the one industry group most pleased by President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union speech. After years of being maligned as the problem of the new service-based economy, this crowd is quite easy to please. Even one sentence will do. Yet, for the many New Yorkers who are stuck in the low wage cycle of retail work, the notion that this sector of the economy will produce anything remotely resembling a “good job” is laughable.

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The State of the Union is a finely calibrated exercise in political theater. Each word is closely measured for its potential impact. Nothing happens spontaneously. Journalists who received an early version of the speech can attest to the fact that Obama’s speech was more an exercise in recitation than thinking on his feet.

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Mobilizing the Jobless

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An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.

Frances Fox Piven, The Nation

As 2011 begins, nearly 15 million people are officially unemployed in the United States and another 11.5 million have either settled for part-time work or simply given up the search for a job. To regain the 5 percent unemployment level of December 2007, about 300,000 jobs would have to be created each month for several years. There are no signs that this is likely to happen soon. And joblessness now hits people harder because it follows in the wake of decades of stagnating worker earnings, high consumer indebtedness, eviscerated retirement funds and rollbacks of the social safety net.

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So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs? After all, the injustice is apparent. Working people are losing their homes and their pensions while robber-baron CEOs report renewed profits and windfall bonuses. Shouldn't the unemployed be on the march? Why aren't they demanding enhanced safety net protections and big initiatives to generate jobs?

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Obama's New Pick For Jobs Panel Sends Work Overseas

Obama Picks Jeffrey Immelt, GE CEO, To Run New Jobs-Focused Panel As GE Sends Jobs Overseas, Pays Little In Taxes

Shahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post

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Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chairman and chief executive of General Electric Co. tapped by President Barack Obama as his next top outside economic adviser, will be asked to guide the White House as it attempts to jump-start lackluster job creation and spur a muddled recovery.

Immelt's firm stands as Exhibit A of a successful and profitable corporate America standing at the forefront of the recovery. It also represents the archetypal company that's hoarding cash, sending jobs overseas, relying on taxpayer bailouts and paying less taxes than envisioned.

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The move is the latest salvo in the White House's continued aggressive and very public outreach to corporate America. Earlier this month, Obama appointed a top executive at JPMorgan Chase as his chief of staff, and this week he granted a longtime wish of business interests by promising to review federal regulations perceived as onerous.

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Where Are the Jobs? 6 Theories for the Employment Crisis

What's wrong with the U.S. market for jobs? In the last two years, U.S. economy has recovered faster than almost any country in the developed world. But employment has suffered much more than any G7 country since 2008. Two graphs tell the story (via Free Exchange).

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Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

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What's going on here? The simplest way to think through these theories is: (1) Why were companies so quick to fire? and (2) Why are companies so slow to hire? So here we go...

Why were companies so quick to fire?

1. Weak unions. In a world where firms are afraid to fire workers thanks to strong unions, companies tend to "hoard" labor. As a result, we see falling productivity in recessions and rising productivity in boom times. Today, it's all backward. With weak unions, companies are freer to lay-off en masse and add back temporary workers on a part-time basis as they feel out the recovery. With companies adding back only the work they need on a week-to-week basis, we're seeing productivity jump during a recession without an equal jump in employment.

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Martin Luther King Jr. and the attack on public workers

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  • Sanitation workers pay is not a gift. The pay and benefits that many local governments are threatening to cut are earned with long hours of backbreaking, stinky work. Oh, the howls from the gated communities if the garbage isn't picked up!
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  • Throwing Public Unions Under the Bus
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Scott Marshall, People's World

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How ironic. As we celebrate the life and historic contributions of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, public workers are under fierce attack across the country. As the economic crisis worsens for working people there is a coordinated campaign by big business, the newly energized, tea party Republican right, and some Democrats to resolve the crisis on the backs of public workers.

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Can you imagine the folks who just got hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks getting indignant at the wages of sanitation workers? What the top 1% of the rich will each get just in tax breaks alone would provide decent, livable wages for several sanitation workers for a whole year. Such bald faced hypocrisy is the currency of these attacks.

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Sanitation workers pay is not a gift. The pay and benefits that many local governments are threatening to cut are earned with long hours of backbreaking, stinky work. Oh, the howls from the gated communities if the garbage isn't picked up.

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Throwing Public Unions Under the Bus, Shamus Cooke, Truthout

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  • Public workers cannot be spectators in this unfolding drama. They must learn to act collectively. Unions must educate their membership about the gravity of the coming assault. Anti-union attacks must be resisted while alternatives are proposed; state funding must be increased by raising taxes on the rich and the corporations. If public employee unions are busted, the rest of the labor movement will be targeted next – but it will be too weak to defend itself.
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  • Let's bust the myths about public unions
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