IF WORKING Americans had any doubt about where the Bush Administration's mismanagement of the economy has taken them, and where another Republican president might lead, the job losses for September made it frighteningly clear.
The economy lost 159,000 jobs last month, the worst figure in five years, which capped nine straight months of losses totaling 760,000, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The American economy needs to gain an estimated 150,000 jobs per month simply to absorb new employment seekers.
The contraction of the economy that the $700 billion bailout is designed to counteract has scarcely begun. Its most brutal effects on the job market may still be ahead.
Even though large banks and investment firms may have been saved and some of the wreckage among distressed mortgage holders may have been averted, there is still danger lurking for working Americans and worse for the unemployed.
For one thing, forecasts say consumers will be spending less in coming months, including the critical holiday shopping season. There could also be more defaults on credit-card debt and auto loans as jobs are scaled back. For example, General Motors has accelerated the closing of an assembly plant near Dayton, cutting jobs for 1,100 workers.
Fear is in the air, but it isn't fear itself that worries Americans. It is the feeling that those who govern don't know how to preserve an economy within which workers can make a living.