Friday, October 9, 2009

EPI Survey Finds Broad Support for Federal Jobs Program

From October 8 - Economic Policy Institute (EPI) News - see links to papers and audio from September 30 conference in Washington DC. Thanks to Frank Stricker for bringing to our attention.

A groundswell of support for federal action on jobs creation

The Labor Department earlier this month reported an official unemployment rate for September of 9.8%, suggesting that about one in 10 American workers is out of work. But even that figure, the highest unemployment rate in a generation, masks the extent to which joblessness has devastated American families.

An analysis of the latest jobs data by EPI economist Heidi Shierholz found that September marked the 21st consecutive month of job loss, making this the longest losing streak in 70 years, and costing the country 7.2 million jobs so far. Considering the additional jobs needed to keep up with population growth, the country now needs 9.9 million jobs to return to a pre-recession level of employment.

Recession is personal for one in four Americans

On September 30, EPI released a new survey showing that almost one in four families have suffered a job loss over the past year, and 44% have suffered either the loss of a job or a reduction in wages.

The survey, Tracking the Recovery: Voters' Views on the Recession, Jobs, and the Deficit, was conducted for EPI by Hart Research Associates, which polled 802 registered voters in mid-September. Asked to name the most important economic problem facing the country, 53% of those surveyed listed unemployment and a lack of jobs, compared with 27% who cited the federal budget deficit. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed-81%-said the Obama administration has still not done enough to deal with the unemployment crisis. Some 87% of voters said they support a major job creation credit for U.S. businesses and 71% support putting unemployed people to work at government-funded public service jobs.

Making new jobs creation a priority

Also on September 30, EPI hosted Generating a Robust Recovery, where a panel of economists and lawmakers elaborated on the need to do more to create jobs and strengthen the social safety net. In a keynote address, Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Congresswoman from Connecticut, said the widespread job loss and mounting poverty levels had left the country at risk of having "a lost generation of American children."

Geoffrey Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the Tracking the Recovery survey, also pointed to a disconnect between Washington, where many policy makers continue to see deficit reduction as the top economic priority, and ordinary people throughout the country, who want more jobs. Considering the staggering level of job loss, Garin said he found it "inconceivable" that lawmakers would make fixing the budget deficit a priority "without first getting people back to work."

Krugman makes the case for more public investment

Other speakers at EPI's conference offered some perspective on the federal deficit, in the context of the need for more public investment from the federal government. "The idea that there is a tradeoff between doing more today and having more later is not true," said Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist.

Krugman argued that investments made today to help create jobs and strengthen the social safety net would be good for the economy both now and in the future. Although he said that the $787 billion Recovery Act passed earlier this year had succeeded in creating new jobs and preventing the loss of others, Krugman stressed that the stimulus package was not large enough to deal with such a steep downturn.

While the $787 billion of stimulus spending may have seemed like a massive amount when the Recovery Act was passed earlier this year, many economists, including Krugman, believe it was insufficient. "We did somewhere between a third and a fifth of what we needed to do," said J. Bradford DeLong, professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, who also spoke on the panel at EPI. That estimate was consistent with other findings in the Tracking the Recovery survey. While most of those surveyed seemed to appreciate that the Recovery Act had provided some needed assistance, two-thirds of those surveyed said that it had helped a little, rather than a lot.

The panel, which was moderated by Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein, also featured EPI Research and Policy Director John Irons, who offered more insight on the cost of doing nothing. Irons' latest paper, Economic Scarring, outlines some of the long-term consequences of even short-lived recessions, including increased poverty and reduced educational attainment, private investment, and entrepreneurial activity.

Generating a Robust Recovery [event]
By John Irons September 30, 2009

Officially, the Great Recession may be coming to an end, but it will leave in its wake historically high unemployment and a host of other serious economic problems. How will policy-makers promote a robust, employment-led recovery that will lay the foundation for strong, long-term growth? Meeting this challenge requires both the will to continue investing in families hard hit by the recession despite growing budget deficits and the skill in crafting the right mix of policies to ensure that this recovery -- unlike the last one -- will bring significant numbers of new jobs and rising living standards along with it.

On September 30, 2009, the Economic Policy Institute hosted a discussion of these issues with noted experts in this exciting forum.

Keynote speakers:

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Congresswoman, 3rd District of Connecticut
Geoffrey Garin, President, Hart Reasearch Associates


J. Bradford DeLong, Professor, UC Berkeley; Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
John Irons, Research and Policy Director, Economic Policy Institute
Paul Krugman, Columnist, New York Times; Professor, Princeton University and Nobel Laureate

Steven Pearlstein, Business Columnist, The Washington Post

Review materials from this event:
*Video from this event will be posted soon

Listen to an audio recording of this event: [listen/streaming] [download MP3]

View slideshows from presenters:
John Irons
J. Bradford DeLong
Geoffrey Garin

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