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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/10/20

"Mass Unemployment Is a Policy Choice"

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From The Nation

As unemployment reaches Depression-era levels, Pramila Jayapal has a plan that responds with a New Deal -- level of urgency

US economy loses 20.5 million jobs in April, raising unemployment rate to 14.7%
US economy loses 20.5 million jobs in April, raising unemployment rate to 14.7%
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More than 20.5 million American workers just lost their jobs in a single month.

"The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent in April, the highest level since the Great Depression, as most businesses shut down or severely curtailed operations to fight the deadly coronavirus," reported The Washington Post on Friday morning. "If anything, the report understates the damage," the Post explained. "The government's definition of unemployment typically requires people to be actively looking for work. And the unemployment rate doesn't reflect the millions still working who have had their hours slashed or their pay cut."

Lance Lambert, a data editor with Fortune magazine, offered an even more sobering set of numbers when he wrote this week, "Before this seven-week stretch of 33.5 million initial jobless claims, there were already 7.1 million unemployed Americans as of March 13. When those figures are combined, it equals more than 40 million unemployed, or a real unemployment rate of 24.9 percent. That's just under the Great Depression peak of an unemployment rate that topped 25.6 percent."

No one should mince words.

Let's acknowledge, as does Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) cochair Mark Pocan, that "we face an economic crisis." The dangerously misguided efforts by President Trump and his allies to "reopen" the economy in the midst of a pandemic are not going to address that crisis.

Let's also acknowledge that the federal response to this crisis has been woefully inadequate. It has not stemmed mass unemployment or the shuttering of small and medium-sized businesses.

How should congressional Democratic leaders, who are currently crafting their proposal for the next Covid-19 relief package, react as this country sinks into a new Depression? Senate minority leader Charles Schumer is right when he says, "We need Franklin Rooseveltian-type action." But tossing around FDR's name and talking about a new New Deal -- ideally a Green New Deal -- only gets us so far.

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