fresh voices from the front lines of change







Details are emerging about the House-Senate conference committee charged with developing a new budget. That would presumably head off the continued threat of a renewed Republican government shutdown – a catastrophe that is currently scheduled for January 15 – and would presumably also defuse the GOP's threat to throw the government into default.

A word for the members of the committee: Tuesday the S&P 500 stock market index hit record highs, while newly-released employment statistics were even weaker than expected. Your mission couldn't be clearer. You must create a budget which creates jobs for the American people.

The Wrong Assignment

Nevertheless, many politicians are misinterpreting their assignment. You'll hear them say that the Committee's been charged with finding a "deficit reduction plan" that's acceptable to both parties.

Congress wasn't elected to "reduce the deficit." According to polling from 2012, it – and the president – were elected to create jobs. You certainly weren't elected to create a more hospitable climate for offshoring mega-corporations. And if you think you were, feel free to declare "Mission accomplished."

The stock market hit record highs today. The jobs report was unexpectedly weak, after nearly 5 years of devastating unemployment and underemployment. So get on with it, please, ladies and gentlemen of the committee.

Your assignment hasn't changed since you were elected. Two thirds of voters polled earlier this year stated that the government's top priority should be job creation. Voters still believe that we need jobs in order to fix the economy, according to Gallup polling, and they're right.

Getting the Picture

You have your work cut out for you. This chart illustrates the millions of people who have been left behind by our anemic recovery.


This chart, on the other hand, shows that the deficit is falling rapidly – too rapidly, in fact, given the urgent need for government investment in jobs, infrastructure, and economic growth.


Please: Fix what's broken, not what isn't.

The Voodoo Didn't Work

Some politicians and pundits still insist that lower taxes and reduced government spending will lower unemployment. They continue to claim that an agenda of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy – packaged nowadays with the misleading label "tax reform" – is a job creation program.

If you're one of the people who feels that way, our question for you is a simple one: Where are the jobs? Your agenda has been in place for more than a decade, with low tax rates for the wealthy and corporations, and cuts in government spending.

Corporate taxes are at or near a 60-year low, and your "reform" would fix those historical tax giveaways for mega-corporations as a permanent tax rate. Millionaires and billionaires, who paid 73 or 74 percent on most of their income at the start of the Reagan era, now have a top official tax rate of 39.6 percent – and, thanks to plentiful loopholes, usually pay much less than that.

The cuts which have already been forced on us have cost the economy nearly 1 million jobs, according to the most conservative estimate, while robbing our economy of tens of billions in growth.

Do you really think we want more of the same?

Common Sense

As Dean Baker recently pointed out, many Democrats nevertheless seem to have bought into the deeply misguided deficit agenda. That's a profound error, both economically and politically. The American people are looking to Democrats to be the voice of reason. Please don't let them down.

You can't cut government jobs in an economy wracked by unemployment – an economy whose current "multiplier effect" translates them into many more nongovernment jobs which will be lost – and still tell us your approach works. Everything, including economics, common sense, and historical experience, tells us how to fix our economy: by investing in our economy and creating jobs.

So create some. Create some construction jobs, before our crumbling infrastructure robs our economy of even more lost growth – and starts robbing Americans of their lives. Create some teaching jobs so that our young people can get a decent education. Create some jobs for college graduates, who are facing career-crippling early-stage unemployment, so that they can go to work improving this country.

Please stop putting people out of work with government cuts, and start putting them back to work with government investment.

The "Grand Bargain" Is Neither

And for God's sake, conferees, whatever you do, don't keep drinking the deficit Kool-Aid. Don't cling to misconceptions that would lead you to make financial conditions even worse for the vast majority of Americans.

There's talk of a so-called "Grand Bargain" to cut Social Security and Medicare. That would cause suffering for the disabled, and for today's seniors – as well as tomorrow's, which includes even the youngest of today's Americans.

A "Grand Bargain" would also result in even higher unemployment. Most people on Social Security depend on it as their primary source of income, so cuts to benefits means they'll spend less – and less spending means fewer jobs.

Stand In the Light

And don't think the American people won't be watching. Right now there's controversy over minority leader Nancy Pelosi's proposal to televise the hearings. That shouldn't be controversial. The people's business should be conducted in plain sight, where the people can watch, listen, and learn – who's working on their behalf and who isn't.

So, by all means, be courageous enough to do your work in the light. And don't be misled into thinking that secret hearings will protect you in the voting booth. If you fail to carry out the mission the American people have given you, there'll be no place to hide come election time.

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