9.8%: The Number That The Deficit Commission Left Out

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
9.8%! It’s still all about jobs. It’s still an emergency. And the DC elite still don’t get it — or don’t care. They give us a “deficit commission” not a jobs commission. They’ve got it nice while the rest of us have it not-so-nice. Maybe we should move the Congress out of DC so they can see for themselves what is happening to America.
If you visit DC (and don’t go to the “wrong” areas) you see nice buildings, nice stores, nice houses, nice hotels, nice trains, nice cars and lots and lots of nice and very expensive restaurants. You see lots of nice nicely-dressed people walking in a hurry to their nice jobs. Lots of nice jobs. Nice, very expensive houses. Nice cars. Nice life. Nice fantasy.

But if you leave DC you see something very, very different. Congress clearly doesn’t see what the rest of us see. If they did, how could they possibly do the things they are doing? There is an absolute emergency going on in the country and Congress refuses to even see it. With 9.8% of us jobless — that is the official rate, not counting the people who have given up or are “under”employed or took pay cuts or whatever — Congress is debating tax cuts for the rich and cutting back on programs for the rest of us.
Congress actually did act on jobs last week: with unemployment near 10% they killed unemployment benefits for people out of work more than 26 weeks!
What You See Outside Of DC
This fall I spent some time driving around Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I was covering some of the events on the Keep It Made In America Tour. I am from Silicon Valley, and it’s still pretty nice right here, so the extent and breadth of the decline of our cities and towns was somewhat of a surprise to me. Of course I know what is going on, but when you actually come from somewhere that is still pretty nice and see it firsthand – and everywhere – the abrupt transition makes its point.
Here is what you see in town after town. As you approach the town the first thing you encounter is the vulture circle that surrounds it. This is the circle of Wall Street-owned chains emulating the Wal-Mart model of sucking cash out of the area, and sending it to the wealthy elites who own … almost everything now. Nice stores near highway exits. National chains, all the same…
Next is the circle of home equity extraction, the newer houses with the big first and second Wall Street mortgages. These houses mostly look OK — except the foreclosures with the brown lawns and grass growing in the cracks in the driveway. This area has the car dealers and strip malls that used to sell the nice cars or nice goods that feasted on those “take money out of your house” refinancings or second mortgages. Now they have nail and hair salons or are just “for lease.”
Then you get to the areas of older houses, more of them boarded up than you want to see, boarded up stores on a few of the corners of the larger streets. Lots of the still-occupied houses have bars on the windows.
Then you get to the old, crumbling downtown where there are many empty storefronts, some boarded, a few government buildings here and there.
And somewhere is “the old plant.” One or more closed-up, fenced-off, rusting old factories or mills with broken windows, maybe part of it falling down, where the people used to work, the jobs moved to Mexico or China.
Much of the country is like this now. So many of the older small towns, crumbling, the money sucked out by the Wall Street elite. The factories sold off, closed. The people can’t make a living, the towns can’t make a living, the country can’t make a living, the Wall Street elite making a killing.
As I said, I am from Silicon Valley, and it’s still pretty nice here, but you can see it starting here, too. One of every four or five office or light-industrial buildings has an “Available” sign. The region has the same number of manufacturing jobs as it had when the “tech revolution” began – the rest moved to China. Even exclusive Palo Alto has empty storefronts on the main drag. It is even happening here. It will get worse.
But it is not happening yet in the parts of New York and DC where the well-to-do elite spend their time. So they don’t see or feel or care what is happening to the country. And these plutocrats control all of the levers of power, making it impossible for the rest of us to participate in the system to fix the situation. Which means that people are starting to talk about moving outside of the system. Tea Party, for example. Militias, for example. Nonvoting, for example.
Deficit Commission Instead of Jobs Commission?
The priorities of the plutocratic DC elite do not reflect America’s problems. DC gives us a deficit commission instead of a jobs commission. Their deficit commission proposes to cut the lifeline of retirement. There is nothing about investing in our crumbling infrastructure or education or the new green industries that move us away from the oil/coal economy that is draining us and threatening our climate and coastlines. There is nothing about an economic/industrial policy to restore our competitiveness in the world economy.
Perhaps moving the Congress would help, so they can see the gap that has formed between the DC elite and the rest of us. I suggest Lorain, Ohio. Then after a month, Wheeling, West Virginia. Month after that, Canton, Ohio. Next, Erie, Pennsylvania. Then move it permanently to Flint, Michigan.

About the video.
And, of course, the chart that no one in DC is able to understand:
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