There’s an old political axiom that has continuously been proven true in every national election: “In the end, people vote their pocket books.”
Or as James Carville put it more bluntly during President Bill Clinton’s campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
It would seem that the 2016 election proved this point more than any election before. Every candidate who ran for the presidency — all the way from the current occupant of the White House to those who wrote in their own name in on November 8th — spent a great amount of time pointing out how we had to prioritize getting our people to back to work.
Jobs — it was the number one issue, without a doubt. And it was the one issue that every American could agree on, no matter where they stood politically or socially, even with the unemployment rate hovering around and below 5 percent — the lowest since the “Great recession” of 2008. But the truth is that people have not felt any real recovery — because wages have stagnated and most of the available jobs pay less than those people lost.
While official unemployment rates look good on paper, the level of chronic unemployment — those whose wages have not caught up to previous levels and those whose previous jobs have not returned or never will — has become catastrophic for too many Americans.
In addition, the number of people forced into working “under the table” has increased dramatically. This practice harms the economy and society in many ways. It drives down wages, causes people to work without benefits, reduces tax revenues, and undermines competition with responsible employers that follow the rules. Furthermore, these jobs offer no long-term stability and they breed hostile, unsafe working conditions. But with good jobs so hard to find and wages so low, today’s workers are being taken advantage like no other time since the Great Depression. And this is where building trades workers get hurt the worst. When safety concerns and quality workmanship take a back seat to paying the lowest wages with little or no benefits to up the company’s profits, we know where most owners will side.
So why, nearly one year after this “jobs” election, have we not seen one serious effort to put people back to work? What have the president and those elected to Congress done to keep their jobs promises? Where is a bill? Where is a serious discussion about creating middle class jobs? Where is a plan? Where does all this leave the American worker? The trades people? The American family? OPCMIA members?
Why is the American worker promised the moon before each election and given nothing but Swiss cheese after the votes have been counted?
Daniel E. Stepano