Is Mitt Romney right about a 'good jobs' dearth in US? (+video)
Under fire for writing off 47 percent of Americans as government dependents who will never vote for him, Mitt Romney clarifies that what he wants is for more people to have jobs good enough that they do pay taxes. Many agree about slippage in 'good jobs.'
Under fire for telling campaign donors that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent on government" and pay no income taxes, presidential candidate Mitt Romney has offered this clarification: What he wants is for more Americans to have jobs good enough that they do pay taxes.Skip to next paragraph
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“I do believe that we should have enough jobs and enough take-home pay such that people have the privilege of higher incomes that allow them to be paying taxes," the Republican nominee said in a Fox News interview Tuesday.
"The problem right now," he added, is "so many people have fallen into poverty that they’re not paying taxes. They have to rely on government.... The right course to help them is not just to have government handing out but instead government helping people to get back to good jobs.”
His words, from a political standpoint, were obviously aimed at deflecting criticism that his earlier comments – released this week after being videotaped secretly at a May fundraising event – were insensitive to many Americans who don't view themselves as reliant on government handouts.
But Mr. Romney's response also points to a serious challenge for the US economy: how to create not just more jobs but more good-paying ones.
At a time when Americans already put jobs at the top of their agenda, some recent reports have underscored broad challenges in the US labor market:
• Not only is job creation weak, but wages have continued to stagnate since the Great Recession officially ended in mid-2009. Inflation-adjusted hourly earnings have fallen a bit in the past three years. That helps explain why another gauge, the real median household income, also went down last year, according to a Census Bureau survey released this month.
• Some 46 million Americans were officially in poverty last year, the Census survey found. That number was essentially unchanged for the year even as the job market improved. The US Labor Department estimates that some 10.5 million people as of 2010 were "working poor," living below the poverty line while spending at least 27 weeks working or seeking jobs.
• Another study has sought to quantify the share of employed people in the US who have "good jobs," and concludes that this share was falling even before the recession hit. The Center for Economic and Policy Research defined "good job" as one that pays at least $37,000 per year, has employer-provided health insurance, and has an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a pension or 401(k) plan. About 25 percent of US jobs fit that definition in 2010, down from 27.4 percent in 1979.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research is a liberal group, but the message of its study is salient for Americans of all political stripes. Republican voters care about health insurance and jobs, like Democrats do, although the two camps differ on how to boost US prosperity.