We expect January’s unemployment numbers, to be released Friday, to show that while Wall Street bankers continue to thrive, American workers continue to suffer under a deep recession. The numbers should serve as a stark reminder to Congress that the time to act is now and our nation needs a strong, comprehensive jobs program.
In order to simply recover the jobs lost during the Great Recession, we would need to create more than 400,000 jobs a month for each of the next three years. The House’s “Jobs for Main Street Bill” is a step in the right direction and the Senate needs to pass this vital legislation without delay.
But the House bill is only a start, and is not sufficient to overcome mass unemployment. We need a far bolder commitment to put people to work, including direct public service jobs that can be targeted to those areas most devastated in the downturn.
The reality is that only the Federal Government can do this. States and localities face budget crises and are cutting back. The private sector recovery is slow and halting. Businesses will be reluctant to hire until demand for their products picks up. But consumers are tightening their belts, having lost over $10 trillion in assets, largely in housing values and retirement funds. Export growth will be limited so long as the mercantilist policies of China and much of the world go unchallenged.
Now is the time to make the investments vital to our future. We need to rebuild America's schools and roads. We need to generate clean American energy. We need to keep teachers and police officers on the job. We need public service jobs to put people to work on jobs that need to be done. And we need to make certain that our taxpayer dollars are creating jobs here – and not being shipped abroad.
With nearly 26 million Americans out of work or underemployed, now is not the time to be trying to cut deficits and freeze spending. The Obama budget projects unemployment to be at 9.8 percent when the domestic discretionary spending freeze kicks in, and the biggest danger is that spending restraints will stall recovery—and increase deficits as mass unemployment continues.
The House has acted. The president has called for a jobs bill. It is time for the Senate to pass the bill as a first step to the bolder investment agenda we need.