It’s the jobs, stupid!
Owen describes Brendan Barber’s call, at an ETUC event in Paris, for “decent jobs for all workers”. A very similar message emerged from trade union economists, from OECD countries, who met on Monday and Tuesday. This meeting, also in Paris, was held to consider a trade union position on the economic crisis, in advance of the G8 summit in L’Aquila.
Ron Blackwell, Chief Economist from the AFL-CIO, the TUC’s sister organisation in the United States, captured the mood. Trade unions have a particular responsibility to make the case for employment, he argued, at L’Aquila and elsewhere. Whatever murmurs may be emerging about “green shoots”, the fact is that unemployment across the globe will get a lot worse before it gets better. And, as Ron told us, if trade union’s don’t put the case for jobs, quite simply, nobody else will.
In the election that saw Bill Clinton become US President, campaigners famously coined the slogan, ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’ This reminded Clinton’s staff that, whilst progressives had often made the case for social and moral causes, the issue of economic competence was left to the political right. The consequence was that voters felt the left followed its heart, while the right ruled with its head. However well-meaning the left might be, there were doubts that it could deliver the economic success necessary to deliver on its promises. Clinton’s team decided not to make that mistake again.
In today’s climate, quite simply, ‘It’s the jobs, stupid!’ So whilst both the IMF and the CBI last week called on the UK Government to move faster to cut the deficit, this raises the question: how exactly would public spending cuts save jobs? This must be the litmus test of policy going forward. The higher the unemployment, the lower the tax take, the bigger the benefits bill, the greater the risk of people losing touch with the labour market, perhaps for life, and the deeper the human suffering. Oh, and it doesn’t even make economic sense.
Yes, indeed. It’s the jobs, stupid.