Six Pillars For American Jobs And Rebuilding The American Dream

Isaiah J. Poole

On the morning after President Obama sent his "American Jobs Act" legislation to Capitol Hill, the Progressive Caucus is responding with its "Rebuild The American Dream Framework," six pillars that progressive leaders in Congress are using to construct a set of bold jobs proposals.

While the administration is using its national network to rally support for its jobs package, Progressive Caucus co-chairs Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., say they are working to mobilize support for their jobs package in a way that will actually support President Obama’s ultimate goal of getting Americans back to work.

"This is not about picking a fight with anybody," Grijalva told a group of bloggers Monday. By pushing a jobs agenda that in many respects is more aggressive that what the White House is proposing, "we believe we strengthen that agenda" — and draw the contrast between progressive solutions to the jobs crisis and conservative legislators’ efforts to obstruct meaningful jobs legislation while defending tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.

Ellison says the "Rebuild the American Dream Framework" is the product of the jobs listening tour the Progressive Caucus launched this summer. "What we did here was go to people, listen to them, organize their comments and distilled them into some principles and turned them into legislation," Ellison said.

Some of the legislation has already been introduced, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s "Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act" and Ellison’s "Put America Back To Work Act." Some elements of Schakowsky’s bill can be found in Obama’s jobs legislation, including aid to prevent state and local layoffs of teachers and other public workers, and funding to get construction workers employed on school improvement projects. But virtually off the political table are solutions such as Ellison’s idea of a 21st-century equivalent of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, which would use federal dollars to put 2 million people unemployed people to work on a myriad of needed public projects.

Ellison stressed, however, that "this is a long-term commitment that we will continue to roll out" in order to spell out the details of a jobs agenda bold enough to address the crisis that 24 million unemployed Americans face and draw the contrast to a conservative agenda that has worsened conditions for middle-class and working-class people.

Ellison noted that the "Take Back The American Dream" conference in October will provide an opportunity to discuss the principles in the framework and discuss ways to keep them in the forefront of the 2012 political debate. Ellison and Grijalva will both be speakers at the conference.

The six pillars of the "Rebuild The American Dream Framework" are:

Make it in America Again: "We must begin with a strategy to revive manufacturing in the United States.  This requires developing something every other industrial nation has – a national plan for manufacturing. …  We need a policy that reopens our factories and lets Americans do what they do best: produce the highest quality products in the world."

Rebuild America: With the federal government’s borrowing costs currently close to zero, with millions of construction workers looking for work, and an extensive list of infrastructure projects that need urgent attention, there’s not a better time than now  to launch a major initiative to rebuild America. The framework includes the administration’s plan to create a national investment bank, and adds federal support for a universally accessible fiber optic cable network.  

 Jobs for the Next Generation:  With one in four teenagers are officially unemployed, including nearly half of young African Americans and Latinos, the framework calls for both increased investment in public education and a policy of making the "guarantee of a good American job real for every young person," through direct public employment or incentives for hiring in the nonprofit and private sector. In addition, the caucus supports a “Train me and pay me” program which would give stipends to workers and young people who are enrolled in job training programs.

Lead the Green Industrial Revolution: The framework calls for investment in research and innovation so that America remains on the cutting edge of green technology manufacturing. In addition to investment incentives to create green jobs at home, the caucus supports federal spending to support a nationwide electric "smart grid."

Not Just Jobs – Good Jobs: Ellison said that one of the people he met during the caucus’ jobs tour was a Walmart employee who, despite being a manager, was still eligible for welfare because her salary was so low. That’s why, he said, it’s important to ensure that middle-class Americans are free to organize and have a voice and a seat at the table again, that labor laws are enforced, and that the long-term unemployed receive the full assistance and services they need so they can continue contributing to the economy.

Fair Taxes – Shared Sacrifice: Echoing what the caucus spelled out in its People’s Budget, the framework calls for  tax reforms in which corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share,  ending the Bush-era tax giveaways, closing corporate loopholes and ending tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas or create offshore tax havens.

“Our principles, endorsed by thousands of Americans on the SpeakOut! For Good Jobs Now Tour, are clear: In America, every good worker deserves a good American job,” the framework document says. “America should work again for people who work for a living. Working Americans should use their strength in numbers to counter corporate dollars.”

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