Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Obama Should Declare a Jobs Emergency--F. Stricker

Here is what President Obama should say to the American people about rising unemployment:

My fellow Americans,

The employment situation is continuing to deteriorate and there is no evidence that the private sector can turn things around. We face a tremendous challenge. Our job total has fallen by eight million since the recession began. And we failed to add the three million jobs we need to keep about with a growing labor force. So we are now 11 million jobs below normal.

We cannot fix this problem in a week or even a year. But the longer we wait, the more pain for our people and more difficult the task. Remember that we also have to add more than a million new jobs every year for an expanding work force.

If we are aiming to get back to get back to the time before this recession, we can do it in six years if we add three million jobs a year. Can we do that? During the recovery from the 2001 recession we were adding only 1.3 million a year. During the Clinton job boom we increased our job totals by 2.3 millionBthat was very good but not good enough.

Our Republican friends prefer that we do nothing, even as the misery mounts. That is Hooverism and we know better. Businesses are not adding to our job totals and won=t add much for a while. It is just too easy for employers to send jobs abroad or buy more machines.

So we can have high unemployment for years to come, or government can act. History shows us that we can reverse the job decline. Franklin Roosevelt and his New Dealers showed that the federal government could create job programs and promote a general economic recovery.

This administration has made mistakes. We underestimated the severity of this recession. But we did not make the mistake of doing nothing; and while there is debate about our efforts to save the financial system and our stimulus and recovery package, we are convinced that without these programs tens of millions of Americans would now be living in Hoovervilles.

But these rich programs were not enough to jump-start job creation. So I propose now a federal Jobs and National Enrichment program that creates real work in a variety of programs and areas. Some of the new jobs will be in the federal government, some in local and state government, some in private businesses and non-profits. Many will be permanent positions, with wages substantially above the poverty line.

There is much that needs doing. We will expand and upgrade Head Start and the care industry. We will create a Neighbor Preservation Corps that acquires, cleans up, and sells foreclosed homes. We will create a Civilian Conservation Corps whose members plant trees, repair parks, and build new ones for communities that have too few of them. There are dozen of other tasks that need to be done and over the next few weeks we will be taking your suggestions about things that need doing.

Some will say that we cannot afford a new federal program, but I say that we cannot afford to waste the labor and skills of twenty million Americans. And our investment in jobs will come back to us hundredfold. We will have a better landscape, smoother roads, smarter kids, and more comfortable elders. And we will have millions of people able to spend freely; that will create millions of jobs in the private sector.

We can do this for a relatively small sum. We are spending $800 million to rescue the money barons and almost $800 million for the first stimulus package. I propose that we spend $200 billion, in each of the next six years, on directly creating good and useful jobs.If we do it right, we can fund three million jobs, with decent pay and benefits, and giving our workers the tools, machinery, and materials they need to perform well.

Some programs can start soon; some will take more time. We are learning from our experience with the current stimulus package. And we will learn from the CCC and the WPA in the 1930s. I have faith in the talents and good will of our people and our government officials. We can meet this challenge together.

Frank Stricker, Emeritus Prof. of History at CSU-Dominguez Hills, author of Why America Lost the War on Poverty and How to Win It and member of the Exec. Com, National Jobs for All Coalition

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