The real jobs solution? Demand action.
In response to our staggering national unemployment rate—stuck at 9.1%, with the Congressional Budget Office predicting that jobs may not return to normal until 2017—President Obama delivered his much-anticipated jobs speech last week and proposed a solution: The American Jobs Act.
The jobs act carries the potential to bring relief to the 14 million Americans desperate for work. A few highlights for workers include:
- More job opportunities for teachers, young people, and construction workers. Obama’s plan would prevent up to 280,000 teacher layoffs and add renovations for 35,000 schools—both vital to educating our future innovators. In another boost to help young people, who just had the worst summer unemployment ever since 1948, with less than half able to find jobs, the act would subsidize jobs and training programs to ensure next summer is not a repeat. Construction, not only in schools, but on our roads and bridges, will put hundreds of thousands of people back to work and ensure our public safety, which is priceless.
- Tax credits for companies who hire long-term unemployed workers and veterans—two groups who have struggled against discrimination, making it nearly impossible to even get their foot in the door. Under this plan, companies would receive tax breaks between $4,000 and nearly $10,000, respectively, for these hires. Plus, unemployment insurance will be extended, allowing Americans to keep the benefits they so desperately need.
- Payroll tax cuts for middle-class workers. Cutting these taxes in half would put $1,500 per year back in the pockets of American families. Additionally, homeowners would have more opportunities to refinance to the historically low interest rates we’re seeing (currently close to 4 percent), which could save them more than $2,000 per year. Every extra dollar counts, especially for families living paycheck to paycheck.
Will the American Jobs Act be the solution for our economy? These days, in our divided political system, it’s questionable whether it will even see the light of day.
But DC political infighting should not stand in the way of full employment. Politicians’ concerns about being reelected should not be at the expense of the American people. The number one task every politician has right now is getting his or her constituency back to work in good jobs with health insurance so folks can provide food, clothing, and shelter for their families.
President Obama pleaded with Congress to “pass this bill,” repeating that phrase at least eight times in his speech, urging that we don’t have the luxury to sit on this issue for 14 months until the next election. But it’s not just our politicians who need to act. Paul Krugman in The New York Times said it best: The American people need to demand action. And as I see it, this bill is the first step towards getting folks back on their feet—we need it passed, and fast.