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Activists gather near the Lincoln Memorial in the nation's capital to participate in the "One Nation Working Together" rally to promote job creation, diversity and tolerance, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010, in Washington

Activists gather near the Lincoln Memorial in the nation's capital to participate in the "One Nation Working Together" rally to promote job creation, diversity and tolerance, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010, in Washington. (AP)

For Jobs, Justice and Education

For nearly two years, the loudest and most insistent voices in American politics have been on the extreme right.

Ben JealousDeepak Bhargava

 by The Nation

For nearly two years, the loudest and most insistent voices in American politics have been on the extreme right.

That is going to change. No longer will we allow a noisy and vocal fringe hijack the definition of “patriot.” No longer will we sit idly while right-wing extremists seek to turn back America’s clock to a past of fear and intimidation. No longer will we watch self proclaimed “real Americans” usurp the will and desire of the real mainstream, the American majority. Simply put, we’ve come too far, overcome too much, to not make our voices heard.

On October 2, 2010, the people of America will come together in Washington, DC, to denounce the cynical politics of distraction and division, and rally around real solutions for our country's problems. Under the banner of "One Nation, Working Together," a broad and diverse coalition will march together: for jobs, quality education and justice. We are marching for all Americans.

The creation of jobs, and most importantly, a living wage, are especially urgent. Jobs are what we need to speed relief and offer opportunity and dignity to working families. Among organizers, the demonstration has already picked up a telling nickname: The Million Jobs March.

This is, in many ways, a fitting title. Wall Street's reckless gambling cost Main Street 8 million jobs. Job losses on that scale have left a gaping hole in the fabric of our country. Until we close that hole, our economy and our politics will continue to unravel.

Instead of contributing to solutions or offering ideas on how to improve the economy, there are those who seek to further the divide and widen the political abyss. A caucus of xenophobic immigration opponents, conspiracy theorists and enemies of reform, among others, have banded together to wage war on the public dialogue, camouflaging their minority views in the cloak of patriotism, undermining and attacking any and all who are not true to the misguided "faith."

Fortunately, Representative George Miller of California and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio have a strong proposal to create one million jobs right away. A million more workers will go out and make new purchases, boosting business confidence, investment and hiring—leading to more jobs. A positive, upward cycle like this is the only available mechanism for growing our way out of the federal budget deficit. Only a growing economy can generate the tax revenues that can begin eliminating the budget shortfall.

In other words: we should be investing in rebuilding America, thereby helping to close the jobs gap, which will then help close the budget gap.

Instead, as we careen toward a possible double-dip recession and a second round of devastating home foreclosures, the extreme right-wing media machine is desperately trying to discredit the idea that America's government can and should move aggressively to create more jobs. To the contrary, we hear incessant warnings about an imminent collapse, the ruin of the Republic, if we don't take drastic and desperate measures to slash federal spending to the bone and marrow. An army of "experts" is on TV all day sounding the alarm bells, warning of economic doom and screaming "the sky is falling."

Pardon us. Nothing they say should persuade our leaders to throw America's working families under the bus. We are in the middle of the biggest economic crisis in half a century. Through its negligence and recklessness, Wall Street has already forced a brutal austerity program on Main Street. The role of America's government is to mitigate its effects and reverse the damage, not to make things worse by heaping suffering on top of suffering. This is not the time to abandon schools, shut down clinics, ignore crumbling infrastructure and forego job creation. This is not the time to take more away from families and communities that are already losing so much. We don't need a public austerity program on top of the private sector–imposed austerity that we are already enduring.

But some members of Congress apparently think they should focus on closing the federal budget gap, even if it means letting millions more American families tumble. They are mistaken. America's workers find themselves in a deep hole. You don't cut your way out of a hole. You grow your way out of a hole. We can afford to invest more in America's long-term success. We are the wealthiest nation in the world. We should not be giving billions of dollars to companies like Halliburton abroad, while closing hospitals at home.

The administration has offered some important initiatives—greater investment in states and local government, the extension of unemployment benefits. Yet even those attempts to help working families has been met by a solid chorus of No from the obstructionists in the Senate.

For all people of good will, dealing with jobs is not only vital for our economy, it is essential for our national identity. The underlying economic anxiety is fueling a dangerous, extremist fringe in our society and giving it a broader base from which to recruit. A jobs agenda will help calm the waters. If we want to pull America back together, we need to first focus on putting America back to work.

We want those 8 million jobs back. We want a country that advances a diverse, quality educational system. We need a government that practices justice, whether its passing comprehensive immigration reform or fixing a broken criminal justice system that incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world. This is no time for timidity. October 2 will mark an important transition point. Among all Americans the microphone must pass from Beltway insiders making excuses to belt-tightening families making demands. We know that when we come together we can win whether passing health care reform that will bring health care to 32 million Americans or broadening anti–hate crime statutes. The marching of thousands of feet will symbolize a new urgency and visibility from those that believe that a better America is possible.

In the body politic, the American people finally will be able to choose between two movements: one that wants to demagogue problems and divide us, and another that wants to promote solutions and unite America.

Please join us.

© 2017 The Nation
Ben Jealous

Ben Jealous

Ben Jealous is former president and chief executive officer of the NAACP. He is the 2018 Democratic nominee for Governor of Maryland.

Deepak Bhargava

Deepak Bhargava  is executive director of the Center for Community Change, which builds the power and capacity of low-income people, especially people of color, to have an impact on improving their communities and the policies and institutions that affect their lives. The CCC strengthens, connects, and mobilizes grassroots groups to enhance their leadership, voice, and power.

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