Rep. Keith Ellison discusses his plan for a "jobs and economic justice tour" in cities nationwide.
The Progressive Caucus is launching a "jobs and economic justice" tour around the country, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., announced at the Summit on Jobs and America's Future.
The tour is designed to promote an alternative to the "so be it" agenda of congressional conservatives and their corporate backers that Ellison says is attacking the fundamental underpinnings of the middle class — and ultimately the principles of American democracy.
Ellison was at a session of the jobs summit that included Rep. George Miller, who with Ellison last year campaigned for a $100 billion public jobs bill that if enacted would have created an additional 1 million jobs, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is launching his "America Fast Forward" initiative to promote new transportation investment.
Ellison said that the jobs and economic tour will promote a three-part agenda that he said was designed to be inspiring and a political winner:
• "Let's rebuild our country," creating infrastructure jobs that can't be exported, using steel and other raw materials from America.
• A "trade agenda that is about fair trade, not just about moving jobs out of the country."
• "An affirmation of public jobs and public employees."
Ellison said that "we are in a generational battle over what the proper role of government is." He recalled the statement of former Sen. Hubert Humphrey, who said that "the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
To that, Ellison added, "Do you have some democracy and some say-so on your job?" or "Does the government make sure that the food you eat and the water you drink and the mortgage you take out is safe, or will it leave you in ruin?"
Eliison condemned conservatives for being about "creating an America that resembles some countries that exist in the world today where there is a tiny elite … and a vast majority of people who absolutely desperate," and who thus are forced to choose between subsistence wages and starvation.
"The question is," Ellison asked the more than 100 progressive activists in the room, "what's our vision?"
Progressives are smart, he said, "but do we know what we care about? Do you know what kind of blood is beating your heart?"
"We need a vision in which we envision a vast middle class," he said, "and not a society in which a few make 400 or 500 times the average worker."
Miller also condemned conservatives in Congress for moving America backward economically and assaulting the middle class. One item he singled out is conservative opposition to green energy tax credits and subsidies, even as they guard subsidies and tax breaks to oil companies. By blocking support for energy alternatives, Miller said, "Republicans have handed U.S. energy policy over to Col. Gaddafi," he said.
As for the conservative push for budget cuts in vital programs, Miller said that people are beginning to see such consequences as home insurance rates going up dramatically in communities that have cut police and firefighters due to budget cuts. This offers "a teachable moment" for the country, Miller said.