The latest job figures to come out of Washington this week showed that in July 12.8 million unemployed Americans were vying for 3.72 million job openings. That’s a ratio of 3.5 people for every opening — better than the 7 to 1 in July 2009, but far from the mark of a healthy economy, which is about 2 to 1.
Meanwhile, 535 Americans with jobs — jobs that pay very well and carry excellent benefits and extraordinary perks — returned from a five-week vacation. But instead of buckling down to earn their pay, they plan on putting in about a week’s worth of half measures and then take six more weeks off.
Who are the bosses of these pampered employees? You, because we’re talking about the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the 100 members of the Senate.
Most of them attended their respective political conventions in recent weeks, where almost everyone was talking about balancing budgets and creating jobs and making the United States a better place for all their constituents.
And yet, back in Washington this week, most are doing little more than political posturing and contributing to gridlock.
Even veterans lose
As far as job creation is concerned, it appears that as long as members of Congress have jobs, they are not inclined to work together in ways that might help millions of their jobless constituent find work. Even, amazingly, if among those millions are veterans of our recent foreign wars.
The Senate is poised to pass a bill establishing a $1 billion Veterans Jobs Corps to relieve high unemployment among servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. But it is virtually doomed in the House, where Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, dismissed it as a “gimmick.” Miller said he’s focused on a “long-term” solution.
We suspect that an unemployed returning veteran would be happy to have a job now and take advantage of any long-term solutions later.
After a week in Washington, members of Congress will return home to campaign so that they might keep receiving their $174,000 salaries. They may come back for a few days between now and the November election, but they aren’t in work mode. They’re in re-election mode. One might think that the two should be connected, but too often that isn’t the case.
Every major challenge facing the nation is going to be kicked down the road until after the election, when a lame-duck Congress will reconvene. Among those challenges will be the need to reach a budget agreement in a way that will not only pay the nation’s necessary bills, but will preserve the nation’s imperiled credit rating.
The esteem in which the American people hold Congress is at historically low levels. And the reason should be clear. The men and women who hold some of the best jobs in American only show up when they please — and even then they don’t do much real work.