fresh voices from the front lines of change







Bob Borosage introduced Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, who said, “Saving and creating jobs is the path to reducing the deficit.”

Progressive tradition in America means the same today as for many years. It is the promise of a society built on what unites us not divides us.

Majority voted for change in in 2008. But still the economy is not working for all. The recovery plan did a lot of good – a lot of good – but was underpowered compared to Bush’s economic catastrophe. We face long term mass unemployment if America does not act boldly.

Americans of all persuasions are angry. We need leaders to attack the plutocracy that has run economy into the ground. We have to demand progressive populist leadership now. We need to hold leaders accountable for strong action. We have to demand that elected leaders fight for economic justice.

That begins with good jobs. We need leadership that fights to create good jobs. Do more not less to create jobs. Wall street should pay to create them! Congress should address jobs crisis with same focus and energy they brough to bailing out the banks. We need President Obama to walk the walk to capital hill. We need his help, because handful of dems are afraid to do withat it right for America. Their fears of budget deficits are misguided.

Saving and creating jobs is the path to reducing the deficit. Doing nothing is not an option, now is right time for action. It is always the same people on the hill who stand in the way, stood in the way of health care, financial reform, standing in the way of our economic future. It is time for action not excuses

Terry O’Neill, President of National Organization for Women (NOW), and chair of NOWPAC.

In the early days of the great recession men were hardest hit by unemployment, but as it progressed it is having a devastating impact on women.

High unemployment has depressed state and local revenues, and they are cutting back on services that families, especially families with single parents, have relied on. Health care, education, college cutbacks, colleges are more expensive, domestic violence programs cut back, all services cut back, all at a time when demand is skyrocketing.
For example last year in just one day there were over 9,000 requests for help from women trying to escape domestic violence that went unmet, for things like emergency shelter, transportation, legal representation. If that day is typical this means over 3 million needs are not met yearly now.

If people don’t have jobs then states and cities and counties don’t have tax revenue, so people can’t access services just when needed most. Needy family emergency fund expires on September 30, so many states are already shutting down their programs. So there is a rapidly approaching crisis point for needy families.

High unemployment correlates with domestic violence, anxiety is higher, tensions are higher. 68 perecnt of programs report lack of jobs lead to increase in victims with no place to go.

State cutbacks are in jobs where women dominate – teachers, nurses, etc. but because of systematic wage discrimination, these are the very people who do not have savings to fall back on.

Older people are going on Social Security at a younger age, which means for rest of their lives they will get lower payments.

I am deeply concerned about the debt commission. Social Security did not create the deficit problem, deficits should not be cut not on the backs of people who rely on Social Security.

What to do:

Enact a strong jobs bill that puts women and men back to work. Create jobs in the social services area, so people who need them can receive them.

Extend the temporary assistance for needy families emergency fund

Strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws.

Strengthen Social Security and Medicare for current and future generations.

It was disasterous failures of Bush-era policies that got us into this: Iraq, Wall Street and tax cuts for th erich.

Deepak Barghava of Center of Community Change

In communities we work unemployment is not just a problem it is a social catastrophe, worst since great depression. Washington has to stop thinking small and take bold and necessary steps.

No real econ recovery until we solve this unemployment crisis, because consumer demand is the most important driver of economy.

President Obama recently said government cannot create jobs but government plays a critical role in stimulating the economy and is the only realistic option to create jobs quickly and on a scale that makes a difference.

In the 30s government stepped in and restored dignity and self esteem, generated services for people to rely on. We all still rely on. Long unemployment leads to higher deficits. The first step to getting the deficit under control is generate jobs and create more taxpayers. $235 deficit reduction from getting people back to work.

What to do:
Local Jobs for America act in House from Miller and Senate by Sherrod Brown. This is the boldest on table, only one that can act quickly.

Stop dithering put America back to work.

Q What investment is AFL-CIO making in Arkansas to help Halter?
A Phone calls, millions of leaflets, door knocks, staff and volunteer time.

Q Long term unemployed losing skills
A AFL-CIO has skills upgrade programs, pre-apprenticeship training, trying to get training but doesn’t do good to train people if you don’t have jobs to go back to. We do not have a short term deficit crisis, we have a jobs crisis. Not fixing the jobs crisis makes the deficit worse.

Q Obama’s export initiatifve, try to create 2 million new jobs by increasing exports. Is this realistic?

A Trumka enforce trade laws, deal with China currency. Otherwise no way to increase exports. Europe has an export strategy. Europe’s austerity program – they will stop buying.

Q How is labor working with broader prog movement
A We have reached out, working talking planning strategizing more than in the past. None of us can do it alone.

We need long term investment in infrastructure. Long term commitment not just a year, so it will bring in private investment. Help with schools. Aid to state and local governments. Wall Street still not lending to small and mid-sized businesses, so take TARP money, give it to regional banks instead. Get the economy going.

Deepak – in previous crisis there was a massive response from washington. It is possible for govt to directly create jobs in things that matter and get them on the street quickly. Very important stepping stone for people to find work in their occupations. For next 5 years unless something dramatic sustained 789 percent unemployment,. No option but to have govt creating jobs.

Q what should debt commissions focus on
A Deepak: Very conserned they could propose solutions that will exacerbate jobs crisis. Maybe efforts to harm Social Security, a critical safety net program. Deficit reduction now will do enormous grave harm to people and to the deficit itself, the long term economic health of the country. Crucial part of deficit reduction is get jobs moving, get infrastructure built, etc.

Trumka: Reiterate, Social Security has no effect on structural deficit, but to show people they are capable of “attacking tough problems”, but people’s lives are at stake here. Raise retirement age is a death sentence. I have a personal example, my father worked in a coal mine, couldn’t go another day after turning 62, black lung, to work to 70 he would have died on the job. I guess that is a solution, to have people die on the job. Instead they should focus on health care. We are all told that health care costs were driving the deficit, so we will hope plans to get back to public option, etc. Necessary to drive down health care costs and use money to create jobs.

What about revenue side? Financial transaction tax. $150-300b in revenue. Necessary also to look at 1946-73, productivity and wages went together because collective bargaining was 37%. From 1973 to date productivity increases but wages have been stagnant because union density is down to12%. So we lost the ability for workers to get a share of what they produce, which is what drives the economy. Can’t build an economy without wages, so families used borrowing for the last 30 years.

Oneill: Debt commission, concern there is not much transparency. If they come out with suggestions for Social Security cuts, it will devastate women. Women are twice as likely as men to have zero pension or savings

The only way to cut the deficit is to create jobs. We have no short term deficit problem

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