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The Jobs Crisis Will Not Be Cured with the Same Policies that Created the Crisis; Experts and National Leaders Agree, Explore Job-Creating Solutions
WASHINGTON - July 11 - On the heels of two months of dismal job growth, a panel of workers, economists and national leaders detailed solutions on how to deal with the jobs crisis at a forum on Monday at the AFL-CIO. Titled "The Jobs Crisis — Moving to Action: A Dialogue Between Workers and Policymakers," the forum, moderated by Bob Herbert, drew a sharp contrast between the policies that got our country in this economic crisis and are currently being advocated to get it out, and what is needed in order to spark a real economic recovery.
"The most grievous of all of America's wounds is its chronic, insidious unemployment," stated Bob Herbert, Distinguished Fellow at Dēmos and moderator of today's panel. "America as we've come to know it – a vibrant, prosperous nation with a vast and growing middle class – cannot survive if the current, tragic levels of joblessness and underemployment become the norm."
"I want to see decent, safe jobs for all Americans. I don't want a handout. I just want a fighting chance," said unemployed Working America member Shonda Sheen, from Yellow Springs, Ohio.
The June job numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor paint an alarming picture: only 18,000 jobs were added to the nation's economy in June, indicating that the recovery is essentially stalled.
"We cannot get our fiscal house in order until we get America back to work," said Heather Boushey, Senior Economist for Center for American Progress. "Yet the debt-ceiling conversation is happening even as the June jobs numbers show that the labor market is moving in the wrong direction. This should be a sobering wake-up call to policy makers that addressing the jobs crisis should be priority number one."
The forum noted that many in Washington continue to tout deregulation and tax cuts as the way out of the economic hole the country is in, without acknowledging the role that those policies played in creating the current economic conditions. The strategy to encourage corporations to spend their billions of dollars in profits is doomed when politicians don't first acknowledge the truth that working people drive the economy as consumers. Without good jobs or shared prosperity, corporations won't spend and our economy can't prosper.
"We have a jobs crisis of epic proportions and in order to solve it – we must create a movement of enormous proportions," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. "This summer working people will be out holding politicians accountable. But that is just the beginning of what we must do. Workers and communities must work together for an economy built on good jobs."
"One of the keys to continuing our economic recovery is growth," said Sen. Al Franken. "By creating high-wage, high-skill jobs, we can grow our middle class and our economy, improve people's lives, and expand our tax base at the same time. My partners in the labor community know that job creation is the smartest investment we can make as a nation."
Rep. Sander Levin said, "Blaming the unemployed for the persistent high jobless rate isn't a prescription for the economy. We need to renew proven measures, such as the advanced energy manufacturing credit and the Build America Bonds program, which helped finance $181 billion in infrastructure projects in the last two years. And we must rein in China's manipulation of its currency, which costs American workers hundreds of thousands of jobs."
Participants also demanded that politicians stop playing politics and instead focus on the health of our middle class and our economy.
"I was set to lose unemployment as of the 2nd or 3rd week of December, and [politicians] were fighting back and forth and it was predicated on the Bush tax cuts. I was caught right in the middle of that," said Bob Stein, a Working America member from Columbus, Ohio. "The thing that was so upsetting is when you heard about the number of people about to lose their unemployment check. I thought, 'Ok, I understand that you're adamant about this Bush tax cut thing, but you're holding us all hostage. You're playing politics with people lives. People use their unemployment. This will stimulate and help the economy."