HUTCHISON: An unemployment crisis

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WASHINGTON - The August jobs report has arrived and once again, it was worse than expected, dashing the hopes of 23 million jobless and underemployed Americans. The weariness we experience at yet another dire report is nothing compared to the emotional, physical and financial exhaustion these men and women feel.

Unemployment remained above 8 percent for the 43rd consecutive month. But the worst news from August is that our workforce shrank; 368,000 formerly working Americans gave up looking for a job altogether. This is the new economic hopelessness index: Americans are dropping out of the workforce almost four times faster than new jobs are being created.

The state of employment in the country has reached full crisis status. We cannot afford – or, more to the point, out-of-work Americans cannot afford – to wait any longer. This is not about politics, this is about disaster relief.

I visited a library in San Angelo, Texas this week, where a statue of their native son – and one of my heroes – the writer Elmer Kelton stands. It put me in mind of his classic, “The Time it Never Rained.” Set in the 1950’s, during the worst drought in living memory, the fictional town of Rio Seco echoed a real-life Texas sentiment: “Give us rain and we don’t care who’s in the White House.”

The 23 million Americans struggling for work surely feel the same way. But there is a difference. To create jobs, it does matter who is in the White House. Unlike rain, there is something that can be done to create jobs.

It is imperative that the person who will lead our country for the next four years has new ideas to spur economic growth and get businesses hiring again. The last three-and-a-half years have been brutal to Americans across the socio-economic spectrum. If we stick to the same failed policies, today’s eighth graders will graduate from high school with no better job prospects than their older siblings have today.

America now has the dubious honor of the world’s highest corporate tax rate, which risks chasing our strongest businesses to more friendly foreign shores. We need to lower that rate so corporations can continue to hire on American soil without jeopardizing their global competitiveness.

We also need to turn back the threat of higher taxes. Small businesses, many of which pay taxes as personal income, cannot afford a tax hike – particularly when faced with the new taxes imposed on them by the new health care law. Until they feel some sense of economic certainty, small businesses – the job creation engines of our economy – will not start hiring again.

There is no mistaking the position America is in: we are in crisis. The only way out is a change in policy to one that will encourage growth that expands businesses and gets them hiring again. 

This column was written by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.


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