Monday, Sept. 6, 2010 | 2:01 a.m.
Labor Day has been the traditional celebration of the American worker for more than 125 years, but this year it is difficult to find much to celebrate, particularly in Nevada. Unemployment in the state has been among the highest in the nation for months, the housing market is still plagued by foreclosures and the tourism industry, the backbone of the state’s economy, is suffering from the recession.
This is quite a turn for the state. It may seem like a distant memory, but for years Nevada’s economy was considered bulletproof — the state thrived and national economic downturns weren’t widely felt here. Over the years, people came here to find plenty of jobs that paid well, giving them the opportunity to buy homes and enjoy a good quality of life.
Nevada was the fastest-growing state in the nation for years as the economy, along with the housing market, boomed. Just four years ago the unemployment rate was 4.4 percent and the housing market was cresting. But things have changed dramatically with this recession — the unemployment rate has more than tripled, and the state has been the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis.
If there’s anything clear this Labor Day, it’s that the American worker deserves a break. Unfortunately, the economy still looks sluggish and efforts to improve it have been tied up in election-year politics.
The Obama administration and the Democratic-led Congress have worked diligently to help Americans, but their efforts have been frustrated by Republican leaders in Congress. Although many of the nation’s leading economists have said the Democrats’ work has helped save jobs and prevent an economic meltdown, Republicans have ignored the experts. Instead, they have tried to scare voters by demonizing the efforts to help the economy, claiming they have failed. The Republicans’ crass political strategy appears to hinge on blocking constructive efforts in hopes that voters will blame the Democrats for the economy in November.
It is notable that the Republican leadership hasn’t brought any helpful ideas to the table, and it instead offers candidates such as Sharron Angle, who is running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Although thousands of Nevadans are struggling to find work, Angle said she would have voted against legislation to extend unemployment benefits, claiming such payments have “spoiled the citizenry.” Angle is the candidate who has argued in favor of phasing out Social Security, which millions of Americans rely on in retirement.
Unfortunately, there is an attitude among some people that boils down to this: Workers can suffer. That is an affront to honest, working Americans, who have made this country the great nation it is. Given the current plight of Americans, it’s beyond time for people to work together to improve the economy and protect the benefits that help people in tough times. There would be no better way to honor American workers this Labor Day.