Women are getting their jobs back, erasing some of the erasures in the last several decades' gains. Got it? Good.
The monthly jobs report is out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing the country adding 559,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate dropping to 5.8 — the lowest unemployment has been since the pandemic crushed employment last year. Also good news: Unlike some previous reductions in the unemployment rate that were distorted because people had given up on looking for work, the "labor force participation rate" for May wasn't changed much from April, which means that the reduction in the unemployment rate went down because people really were finding jobs.
President Joe Biden called the May job numbers "great news for our economy and the recovery," and pointed out that over two million new jobs have been created since he took office. Here, have yourselves some video!
Biden also pointed out that when the monthly survey was taken in early May, only about 35 percent of working-aged adults were fully vaccinated. Since then, some 21 million more Americans have been vaccinated, and the employment news is expected to keep improving as more and more people feel safe to go back to work. He also noted that some 20,000 new jobs have been created in child care, which should help people seek work, too.
And you'd better believe he reminded people that the new child tax credit from the American Rescue Plan will start getting money to parents next month.
To keep the employment picture improving, Biden called again for Congress to pass his two big economic packages, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, because while adding half a million jobs in a month is good, the economy is still down about 7.6 million jobs from pre-pandemic levels.
The May report did fall short of projections by economists surveyed by Dow Jones; the economists had predicted 671,000 new jobs in May. But the gap between the projection and the BLS report was much smaller than in April, when economists expected over a million new jobs, compared to April's actual number of 278,000 (as revised upward in the new report).
CNBC reports that the slightly lower than expected jobs numbers don't seem to have made the markets jittery, and perhaps even the opposite. Also, the mandatory economist weighs in:
Stock market futures actually rose, with investors betting that the measured pace of job gains would keep the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates and tightening monetary policy.
"Economists have been a little overly optimistic about the pace of which we're moving here. It takes a while for people to get jobs," said Kathy Jones, head of fixed income at Charles Schwab. "For the stock market, there's no reason for the Fed to move too quickly, and therefore that's also good news for the bond market."
The biggest sectors for job growth were in the services industry, which makes sense since it also took the biggest hit in the crash.
Leisure and hospitality added 292,000 positions, with the bulk of 186,000 coming in restaurants and bars.
Public and private education also saw the benefits of reopening, adding 144,000 across the board.
And here's a relief: As you might recall, in April, there were significant job losses among women, with 34,000 women losing work. Good news: May was far, far better!
Women accounted for most of the added jobs, with the number of female workers over the age of 20 growing by 381,000. Teenagers, who accounted for most of the gains in April, added another 70,000 jobs.
That certainly suggests April was a dip, not a trend, and let's keep pressuring the Senate to get those jobs bills passed, shall we?
Oh, yes, and smash capitalism.
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Your White House Press Briefing Is Here.
Jen Psaki is all ready for the weekend, and we bet you are too. She'll probably field questions about the May jobs report, and if we're lucky, she'll make Peter Doocy look stupid again, not that he usually needs an assist. You watch now, and we have lunch!
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But who will make the sandwiches if the women are in the workforce?
On May 29, 1943, Norman Rockwell published a Saturday Evening Post cover of a woman working an industrial job. This cover represented the millions of women entering the workforce during World War II to build the material needed to defeat the Axis. This image was part of a larger cultural phenomena referring to these women workers as Rosie the Riveter.
When the United States entered World War II in late 1941, it created an instant labor shortage. With immigration not a possibility except from Mexico, it opened up unprecedented economic opportunities for both women and minorities. The number of women working increased from 12 to 20 million. Before the war, most working women labored in poorly paid service jobs, clerical work, or sales positions. When they did work in manufacturing, it was often in the ever-exploitative apparel industry, mostly in the South and still a bit in New England. During the war, their labor became much more valuable. The number of women in manufacturing grew by 141 percent and the number in industries making material for war skyrocketed by 463 percent. Women working in domestic service declined by 20 percent.
Just because women were needed of course didn't mean that employers had any intention of paying them the same as men, a policy unfortunately acceptable to many unions as well. Men working in a defense production factory averaged $54.65 per week with women averaging only $31.50. While women did join the big industrial unions to work in these factories, because of seniority provisions, they were at the bottom, setting them up to be the first fired after the war. Some contracts for women even stipulated that women would only hold the job until the war's conclusion. Still, the wages were vastly higher than before the war and women were able to partake of greater economic benefits than any time in US history.
The majority of women entering the workforce were older. Sixty percent of the women were over the age of 35 and most of them did not have young children. Few employers provided childcare and the government did not recruit these women. One exception to this was at the Kaiser shipyards on the West Coast, which had 24-hour child care and therefore employed a lot more young women.
The term Rosie the Riveter first appeared in a 1942 song that became a hit for Kay Kyser. A woman named Rosalind Walter was the inspiration for the song. Walter was an elite woman who took a job in an aircraft factory before entering philanthropy after the war. The always-influential Rockwell popularized the image even more with his cover. Rockwell based his woman on a phone operator he knew in Arlington, Vermont, named Mary Doyle Keefe, to whom he then apologized for making her look so burly. The image then toured the country as a fundraising drive for war bonds.
The popular image of Rosie the Riveter at the time was associated with a Kentucky woman named Rose Will Monroe who moved to Michigan during World War II and worked as a riveter building bombers in an Ypsilanti factory. Monroe was asked to be in a promotional film about the women workers and received some short-lived fame that way.
We Can Do It
The most famous Rosie image, the "We Can Do It" poster, in fact was not designed for the campaign at all. Westinghouse hired a Pittsburgh graphic designer named J. Howard Miller to design an image of a woman worker for its War Production Coordinating Committee. It is believed Miller based his image on a photo of a woman named Geraldine Hoff, who worked as a metal-stamping machine operator in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was only shown to Westinghouse workers as part of a good morale, corporate-values drive (read, anti-union drive) for two weeks in February 1943 and was then forgotten. In fact, the poster did not become widely associated with Rosie the Riveter until the 1980s.
So to repeat, the image you think of when you think of Rosie the Riveter was an image intended to discourage women from joining unions. The "We" in "We Can Do It" is Westinghouse workers following the leadership of Westinghouse management. Of course, there's certainly nothing wrong with co-opting rightwing materials for our purposes; certainly conservatives do this all time to images and ideas of the Left. Still, it's worth knowing this. Moreover, it's also important to point out how gender-normative the now popular image of Rosie is compared with Rockwell's image. The Rosie that people get tattooed to them is hot in a very traditional way. Given her status as a feminist icon today, it's also worth noting how much the image reinforces normative standards of beauty.
Ladies Keep Your Pants On
The war meant a lot of hard work. But wartime work could mean a lot of fun too, perhaps too much for some. Senator Prentiss Brown (D-MI), member of the Army Ordinance Committee, spoke out about fun getting in the way of war production:
"The pumps were found to be in perfect condition and no reason could found for their failure until a pair of ladies panties were taken from the suction pipe. These were undoubtedly discarded during the construction of the vessel in a moment of thoughtlessness and left lying in the tank, later finding their way into the pipeline…In order that all may cooperate one hundred percent in the war effort and the total destruction of the Axis Powers, it is respectfully requested that lady workers keep their pants on during working hours for the duration."
Many women wanted to continue working after the war (one poll put the number at about 75 percent), but the postwar economy would be nothing if not patriarchal. Nearly all the women working in factories lost their jobs by the end of 1946. Yet despite overwhelming popular support for women staying at home and letting men work in a single-family economy during the 1950s, women soon entered the workforce at rates surpassing that of World War II. In one poll, 86 percent of Americans said that married women should not work if jobs were scarce and a husband could support her. Yet by 1952, two million more women were working than in 1945. But instead of well-paying industrial jobs, they were effectively filling service positions in the booming postwar economy, going back into sales, office work, working as flight attendants, and returning to domestic service. The fight for women to become an accepted part of the industrial workforce would not be fully engaged again until the 1970s.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton created the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park at the site of a former Kaiser shipyard in Richmond, California, giving the National Park Service a site to interpret this history. I haven't visited unfortunately.
The original Rockwell painting was sold in 2002 for $4.9 million and now resides in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Why This Is Important Today
Duh, it's Rosie! But seriously, women are still not considered as central to the industrial workforce as they should be. It's not just that Rosie the Riveter is a World War II icon. She also should be a representation of an entire history of women in industrial work. Women continue to make up core parts of the industrial workforce today. It's just that those women labor and die making our clothing in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, China, etc. Throw in the effect of the pandemic on women's employment, which by some measures is back to numbers last seen in the 1980s, and you see the erasure of decades of gains.
Julia Brock, Jennifer W. Dickey. Richard Harker and Catherine Lewis, eds., Beyond Rosie: A Documentary History of Women and World War II.
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A chicken in every pot. And ice cream. Because everyone needs a treat!
Joe Biden is getting ready to submit his first annual budget request to Congress, and it reflects a lot of big spending on things that would improve the economy and Americans' lives. And while it would rival the levels of government spending in World War II as a portion of the US economy, it also anticipates paying for Biden's biggest legislative priorities, the American Jobs Plan and the American Family Plan, through higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. The budget also anticipates that those higher tax rates would eventually lead to reductions in the federal deficit in the 2030s, and that inflation would be held to no more than 2.3 percent.
Now, it's worth pointing out that for decades, presidential budget requests have increasingly become more a matter of laying out policy and spending priorities than actual plans for government spending, especially in years when Congress and the White House were held by different parties. With Democrats running both houses of Congress, Biden's budget is far more likely to resemble what Congress ends up passing than in recent years. Donald Trump's budgets would regularly zero out entire agencies, and then even congressional Republicans would ignore what he asked for.
The Biden budget request calls for roughly $5 trillion in new spending over the next 10 years, with most of the new spending — $4.1 trillion over the decade — going to the Jobs and Families plans.
That new spending would be offset by $3.6 trillion in new revenues, mostly from Biden's fairly popular plan to raise corporate tax rates and the income tax rate for the richest Americans. That would result in a net deficit of $1.4 trillion, which would start going down after 2030. The plan is that the two big spending packages would run over 10 years, and then the tax increases would pay off the entire amount within 15 years.
Go ahead, show us a Republican plan that actually did the math without wishful thinking.
Let's just remind you of some of what Biden has in mind here, as the New York Times sums up:
The levels of taxation and spending in Mr. Biden's plans would expand the federal fiscal footprint to levels rarely seen in the postwar era to fund investments that his administration says are crucial to keeping America competitive. That includes money for roads, water pipes, broadband internet, electric vehicle charging stations and advanced manufacturing research. But it also envisions funding for affordable child care, universal prekindergarten and a national paid leave program — initiatives that Republicans have balked at bankrolling. Military spending would also grow, though it would decline as a share of the economy.
Promoting his plans in Cleveland yesterday (where he also got himself some ice cream), Biden said it's time to do some building back better. Noting that we're making good progress on the pandemic and the recession that resulted from it, Biden said we need to ask, "What kind of economy are we going to build for tomorrow? What are we going to do?" He called for rebuilding the economy "from the bottom up and the middle out," instead of handing all the money to the rich and hoping some of it will trickle to the rest of us.
Now is the time to build the foundation that we've laid — to make bold investments in our families, in our communities, in our nation. We know from history that these kinds of investments raise both the floor and the ceiling of the economy for everybody.
Biden directly compared his infrastructure and social spending plans to the New Deal and postwar programs like the GI Bill and the creation of the interstate highway system. (He didn't bring it up in this speech, but he has in other speeches pointed out that we absolutely need to avoid those previous programs' built-in racial discrimination, so that the benefits truly are equitable.)
Biden emphasized that his proposals would help to "restore the connection between the success of our economy and the people who produce that success — hardworking Americans," instead of the investor class that's seen its wealth expand for decades, while the middle and working classes have seen stagnant wages.
Biden's budget plan envisions a far larger role for the government in the economy, which we New Deal fans are entirely happy with, because frankly, we think Bill Clinton was way too eager to join Republicans in their rhetorical posturing against "big government." Here's a breakdown of just how big that change would be, from the Times:
In each year of Mr. Biden's budget, the government would spend more as a share of the economy than all but two years since World War II: 2020 and 2021, which were marked by trillions of dollars in federal spending to help people and businesses endure the pandemic-induced recession.
Also too, supply-siders always seem to miss this detail:
By 2028, when Mr. Biden could be finishing a second term in office, the government would be collecting more tax revenue as a share of the economy than at almost any point in the last century; the only other comparable period was the end of President Bill Clinton's second term, when the economy was roaring and the budget was in surplus.
Oh no. Not a roaring economy that's creating clean jobs!
We're willing to risk it.
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