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Why Jobs Must Be Our Goal Now, Not Deficit Reduction

Robert Reich
Contributor
Robert B. Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten…
Robert Reich

This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s Web page, www.robertreich.org

The news Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is that the U.S. job market is treading water.

The number of new jobs created in December (155,000), and percent unemployment (7.8), were the same as the revised numbers for November.

Also, about the same number of people are looking for work (12.2 million), with additional millions too discouraged even to look.

Put simply, we’re a very long way from the job growth we need to get out of the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. That would be at least 300,000 new jobs per month.

All of which means job growth and wage growth should be the central focus of economic policy, not deficit reduction.

Yet all we’re hearing from Washington — and all we’re likely to hear as Republicans and Democrats negotiate over raising the debt ceiling — is how to cut the deficit.

The typical American worker’s paycheck will drop this week because his or her Social Security tax will rise, from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. That’s nonsensical.

We need to put more money into the pockets of average workers, not less. The first $25,000 of income should be exempt from Social Security taxes altogether, and we should make up the difference by eliminating the ceiling on income subject to Social Security taxes.

Robert B. Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration. Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including the best-sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest, “Beyond Outrage,” is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

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