Posts Tagged ‘Jobs’
Monday, March 2nd, 2015
There is an enormous amount of political debate over various pieces of legislation that are supposed to be massive job killers. For example, Republicans lambasted President Obama’s increase in taxes on the wealthy back in 2013 as a job killer. They endlessly have condemned the Affordable Care Act as a job killer. The same is true for proposals to raise the minimum wage.
While there is great concern in Washington over these and other imaginary job killers, the Federal Reserve Board is openly mapping out an actual job-killing strategy and drawing almost no attention at all for it. The Fed’s job-killing strategy centers on its plan to start raising interest rates, which is generally expected to begin at some point this year.
The Fed’s plans to raise interest rates are rarely spoken of as hurting employment, but job-killing is really at the center of the story. The rationale for raising interest rates is that inflation could begin to pick up and start to exceed the Fed’s current 2.0 percent target if the Fed doesn’t slow the economy with higher interest rates.
Higher interest rates slow the economy by discouraging people from borrowing to buy homes or cars. They will also have some effect in discouraging businesses from investing. With reduced demand from these sectors, businesses will hire fewer workers. This will weaken the labor market, which means workers have less bargaining power. If workers have less bargaining power, they will be less well-situated to get pay increases. And if wages are not rising there will be less inflationary pressure in the economy.
The potential impact of Fed rate hikes on jobs is large. Suppose the Fed raises interest rates enough to shave 0.2 percentage points off the growth rate, say pushing growth for the year down from 2.4 percent to 2.2 percent. If we assume employment growth drops roughly in proportion to GDP growth, this would imply a reduction in the rate of job growth of almost 10 percent. If the economy would have otherwise created 2.4 million jobs over the course of the year, the Fed’s rate hikes would have cost the economy more than 200,000 jobs in this scenario.
For comparison purposes, we are having a big fight over the Keystone pipeline. The proponents of the pipeline point to the jobs created by building a pipeline as an important justification, even if the oil being pumped through the pipeline may cause enormous damage to the environment. According to the State Department’s analysis, building the pipeline would create 21,000 jobs for two years. This pipeline related jobs gain has been widely touted in the media and is supposed to make it difficult for many members of Congress to go along with President Obama in opposing Keystone.
Yet, the Fed can easily destroy ten times as many jobs with a set of interest rate hikes this year with its actions passing largely unnoticed. In fact, the impact of Fed interest rate hikes on jobs can easily be far larger than this 200,000 number. If the Fed decides that the unemployment rate should not fall below a certain level (5.4 percent is a number is often used), then it could be costing the economy millions of jobs if the economy could actually sustain a considerably lower level of unemployment as it did in the late 1990s.
To be clear, Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues on the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC), the committee that determines interest rates, are not evil people sitting around figuring out how to ruin the lives of American workers. The Fed has a legal mandate to control inflation, in addition to its mandate to sustain high levels of unemployment. If they raise interest rates it will be because they fear inflationary pressures will build if they let the economy continue to grow and unemployment to fall.
But this is inevitably a judgment call. The call is based on both their assessment of the risk of inflation and also the relative harm from higher rates of inflation as opposed to higher rates of unemployment. It is likely that the members of the FOMC, who largely come from the financial industry, are much more concerned about inflation than the population as a whole. They are also likely to be less concerned about unemployment. These are people who tend to read about unemployment in the data, not to see it themselves or among their friends and family members.
This is why it is important that the public be paying attention to the Fed’s interest rate policies and let them know how they feel about raising interest rates to kill jobs. The Center for Popular Democracy has organized an impressive grassroots campaign around the Fed’s interest rate policies. Those who don’t want to see the government deliberately trying to kill jobs might want to join in.
This article originally appeared on CEPR.Net and on ourfuture.org on March 2, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Dean Baker is an American economist whose books have been published by the University of Chicago Press, MIT Press, and Cambridge University Press.
Friday, February 6th, 2015
The economy added 257,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate ticked slightly up to 5.7% from December’s 5.6%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was unchanged from December at 2.8 million, but the median duration of unemployment went up, because of a rise in the share of workers unemployed more than 15 weeks. So, those who have returned to the labor market still find it hard to find work.
AFL-CIO Chief Economist William E. Spriggs said 2014 was the best year for job growth since the 1990s, and America is experiencing a record number of consecutive months of private-sector job growth. But he added:
In 2014, workers’ wages barely outpaced inflation, increasing only 2.1%. In fact, throughout the recent economic expansion, workers’ wages have stayed the same. If you adjust for inflation, median weekly wages for full-time workers are stuck where they were in 2011. That’s a big problem, because those are workers in their prime who are holding steady jobs.
Last month’s biggest job gains were in retail trades (46,000), construction (39,000), health care (38,000), food services (35,000), professional and technical (33,000), financial activities (26,000) and manufacturing (22,000).
Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, warehousing, transportation, information and government, showed little change over the month.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in January for teenagers increased to 18.8% from 16.8%. The jobless rate for adult women (5.1%), adult men (5.3%), blacks (10.3%), Latinos (6.7%) and whites (4.9%) showed little change in January from December.
This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on February 6, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
What do you say if you’re opposed to raising the minimum wage, but don’t want to seem completely heartless? For many Republican lawmakers, the answer is some version of this: “The minimum wage is a starting wage. It’s how you gain the experience you need to move up to higher wages.” Problem is, pay rates that are too low to live on or raise a family on are not a just-starting-out phenomenon in the U.S., as a new report makes crystal clear. Low Wage Nation starts with a conservative definition of “living wage,” setting it at $15 an hour, even though that’s enough to live comfortably on in only a few states. Despite that:
- A large proportion of workers are not earning living wages: Nearly two of five existing jobs pay less than $15 an hour.
- Nearly half of new jobs are low-wage jobs: About 48 percent of projected national job openings do not pay $15 or higher. In analyzing individual states, that percentage ranges from 35 percent (Massachusetts) to 61 percent (South Dakota).
- There are not enough living wage jobs to go around: Nationally, there are seven times more jobseekers than there are projected jobs paying $15 or higher, leaving workers seeking better wages with few options.
The fastest-growing occupations are low-wage jobs that contribute to this trend: “Among the top 10 occupations with the most projected job openings, just one has a median wage greater than $15 an hour. The four occupations with the greatest projected number of job openings are in retail and food service, with median wages ranging between $8.81 and $10.16 an hour.” The upshot is that the vast majority of people looking for work aren’t going to find jobs that pay a living wage because those jobs do not exist.
This is just one of the reasons it’s not enough to say “I want people to have something better than the minimum wage” while opposing an increased minimum wage. The American economy is like a game of musical chairs, and there will be nowhere near enough good-job chairs to go around as long as chair availability is determined by corporate CEOs. That’s why the government needs to step in to improve the situation dramatically.
This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on January 27, 2015. Reprinted with permission
About the Author: Laura Clawson is Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.
Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
The jobs report Friday set off cheering: a quarter million positions added in December; unemployment declining to 5.6 percent. This good news arrived amid a booming stock market and a third-quarter GDP report showing the strongest growth in 11 years.
It’s all so very jolly, except for one looming factor: wages. They’re not rising. In fact, they fell in December by 5 cents an hour, nearly erasing the 6-cent increase in November.
Hard-working Americans need a raise. Their wages are stuck, rising only 10.2 percent over the past 35 years. Workers are producing more. Corporations are highly profitable. CEOs, claiming all the credit for that as if they did all of the work themselves, made sure their pay rose 937 percent over those 35 years. That’s right: 937 percent!
It doesn’t add up for workers who struggle more every year. Something’s gotta change. The AFL-CIO is working on that. It launched a campaign last week to wrench worker wages out of the muck and push them up.
At a summit called Raising Wages held in Washington, D.C., last week, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “We are tired of people talking about inequality as if nothing can be done. The answer is simple: raise the wages of the 90 percent of Americans whose wages are lower today than they were in 1997.”
“Families don’t need to hear more about income inequality,” he said; “They need more income.”
The meeting attended by 350 union representatives, community group officials, economic experts and religious leaders was the first of many that will be conducted across the country by the AFL-CIO to spotlight the pain and problems that wage stagnation causes. The AFL-CIO will begin these meetings in the first four presidential primary states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and North Carolina.
The idea is to ensure that candidates, Republican and Democrat, can’t squirm out of dealing with the issue. And Trumka said labor won’t tolerate sappy expressions of sympathy. The federation will demand concrete plans for resolution.
Also last week, the AFL-CIO launched Raising Wages campaigns with community partners in seven cities – Atlanta, Columbus, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Diego, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. In addition to seeking wage increases for all who labor, these coalitions will pursue associated issues such as fighting for paid sick leave and equal pay for equal work.
At the same time, the AFL-CIO and allies will push for federal legislation to seriously punish employers who illegally retaliate against workers and to provide real remedies for workers unjustly treated.
At the summit, workers told their stories alongside experts. Among them was Colby Harris, who suffered illegal retaliation. A member of OUR Walmart, he was fired last year after participating in strikes for better conditions.
“They are trying to silence people for saying we need better wages and benefits. The average Walmart worker makes less than $23,000 a year. These companies have no respect for their workers,” Harris told the group.
Another speaker, Lakia Wilson, said that workers can do everything right, work hard, follow all the rules and still lose out in this economy. The Detroit native earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in counseling. While serving as a school counselor, she took a second job as an adjunct professor at a community college to make enough money to qualify for a home mortgage.
But then, in a cutback at the college, she was laid off. She lost the extra income, and the bank began foreclosure. It was, she said, a horrible, humiliating experience. She cashed out her retirement to save her home. Now her credit and retirement are shot. This happened to her, and to so many others, she said, even though they “did everything necessary to get a good job and get the American dream.”
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren talked to summit attendees about why the economy does not work for people like Wilson and Harris. Though this economy is splendid for those who own lots of stock, it’s not for the vast majority of workers who get their income from wages.
Sen. Warren pointed out that the economy didn’t always work this way. From the 1930s to the 1970s, she said, workers got raises. Ninety percent of workers received 70 percent of the income growth resulting from rising productivity. The 10 percent at the top took 30 percent.
Since 1980, however, that stopped. Ninety percent of workers got none of the gains from income growth. The top 10 percent took 100 percent. The average family is working harder but still struggling to survive with stagnant wages and growing costs.
“Many feel the game is rigged against them, and they are right. The game is rigged against them,” Sen. Warren said.
The rigging was adoption of Ronald Reagan’s voodoo trickle-down strategy. That economic plot puts massive corporations, Wall Street and the 1 percent first. Politicians bowed down to them, legislated for them, deregulated for them. In return, the wealthy were supposed to chuck a few measly crumbs down to workers.
They did not. Workers got nothing.
Despite that, workers still get last consideration. That, Sen. Warren said, must be reversed.
Accomplishing that, clearly, is a David vs. Goliath challenge. David won that contest, and workers can as well – with concerted action. Papa John’s worker Shantel Walker told the summit such a story – one of victory against a giant with collective action.
She discovered that a teenager at the New York franchise where she worked was putting in time that was not clocked. The restaurant was stealing wages.
Walker helped organize a protest at the restaurant. Between 80 and 100 people rallied for justice for the young worker. And they won. The restaurant paid the teen. “Now is the time to stop the poverty wages in America,” Walker said; “Raise the wage!”
Trumka said the AFL-CIO and its allies will demand that of lawmakers. He said they would insist that legislators “build an America where we, the people, share in the wealth we create.”
For that to occur, lawmakers must serve the vast majority first. They must stop functioning as handmaidens to the rich in an economic scheme that has failed the 99 percent from the very day the 1 percent got Ronald Reagan to buy it.
The AFL-CIO and its allies intend to help lawmakers see that they must prioritize the needs of America’s workers.
This article originally appeared in ourfuture.org on January 13, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the author: Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), took office in 2001 after the retirement of former president George Becker.
Sunday, January 11th, 2015
The unemployment rate edged down to 5.6 percent in December from 5.7 percent in November (revised from an earlier reported 5.8 percent), the Labor Department reported today. However, the main reason was that 273,000 workers reportedly left the labor force. The employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) was unchanged at 59.2 percent, roughly 4.0 percentage points below the pre-recession level.
The establishment survey showed the economy adding 252,000 jobs in December. With upward revisions to the prior two months’ data, this brings the three-month average to 289,000.
Some of the job growth in December was likely attributable to better than usual weather for the month. For example, construction reportedly added 48,000 jobs; restaurant employment rose by 43,600. But even without these strong gains, there was still healthy job growth. Manufacturing added 17,000 jobs, finance added 10,000, and professional and business services added 52,000. Unlike prior months, the jobs in this sector were mostly (35,200) in the less well-paying administrative and waste services category.
The health care sector added 34,100 jobs. Job growth in this sector has accelerated sharply, averaging 36,500 over the last three months. By comparison, it averaged just 21,200 in the year from September 2013 to September 2014. Retail added just 7,700 jobs. This reflects the earlier than usual Christmas hiring, which added 88,300 jobs the prior two months.
The story on wages is less encouraging. The widely touted November jump in wages was almost completely reversed, with the December data showing a 5-cent drop from a downwardly revised November figure. The average over the last three months grew at a 1.1 percent annual rate compared with the average of the prior three months, down from a 1.7 percent growth rate over the last year. This may be due in part to a shift to lower paying jobs in restaurants, retail, and the lower-paying portions of the health care industry. However, it is also possible that we are just seeing anomalous data. Nonetheless, the claims of accelerating wage growth have no support in the data.
Interestingly, there seems to be some shift to generally less-skilled production and non-supervisory workers. The index of weekly hours for these workers is up 3.6 percent from its year-ago level. By contrast, the index for all workers is up by just 3.3 percent. Since the former group is more than 80 percent of the payroll employees, hours for supervisory workers would have risen by just 2.5 percent. This is consistent with employment data showing much sharper employment gains for workers with high school degrees or less than for college grads. The EPOP for college grads is actually down by 0.2 percentage points over the last year.
Other data worth noting in the household survey include a rise in the employment-to-population ratio for African Americans of 1.8 percentage points over the last year and for African-American men of 2.2 percentage points. The EPOP for African Americans is up by 3.9 percentage points from its low in 2011, although it is still down by 4.0 percentage points from pre-recession levels. The 10.4 percent December unemployment rate for African Americans is down from a recession peak of 16.8 percent.
This report shows some evidence of the labor market effects of the Affordable Care Act. While the number of people choosing to work part-time was down slightly from its November level, it is still 1.1 million above its year-ago level. The number of people who are self-employed is also up from its year-ago level. Averaging the last three months, the number of self-employed workers is up by 480,000 (3.5 percent) from the same months of 2013. (It had been dropping in 2013.) Also, the over-55 age group comprised just 37.6 percent of employment growth in 2014, compared to an average of 65.3 percent in the prior two years. This could indicate that many pre-Medicare age workers now feel they can retire since they can get insurance through the exchanges.
On the whole, this is clearly a very positive report with the strong December jobs number (even if inflated by weather) coupled with upward revisions to the prior two months. However, quit rates are still very low and wage growth remains weak. This should remind the public of how far the labor market has to go before making up the ground lost in the recession.
This article originally appeared in Ourfuture.org on January 9, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the author: Dean Baker is an American economist whose books have been published by the University of Chicago Press, MIT Press, and Cambridge University Press.
Sunday, November 23rd, 2014
With 25 percent of its African-American residents jobless, Chicago has the highest black unemployment rate among the nation’s five most populous cities. Chicago’s rate is higher than Philadelphia’s 19 percent, Los Angeles’ 18 percent, Houston’s 15 percent and New York City’s 14 percent, based on 2013 U.S. Census figures.
Experts point to Chicago’s unique brand of residential segregation, among other factors. Almost 75 percent of black Chicagoans live in a community that’s at least 90 percent black, according to Census data. Blacks are about one-third of Chicago’s population. The unemployment rate for white Chicagoans is 7 percent; for Latinos, it’s 12 percent.
Michael Dawson, a leading scholar on politics and race, said Chicago’s “extreme segregation” deprives many residents of the predominantly black South and West Sides of adequate public transit and job networks.
“The way people get hired is through networks,” and most people’s social networks are predominately within their own race, he said.
For decades, the city’s economically marginalized black communities have been saddled with failing, underfunded public schools, high youth unemployment and low college graduation rates.
“You get neighborhoods where not only do you not have a job, you don’t know many other people who have one and can help you get one,” said Valerie Wilson, an economist who heads the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
But segregation alone doesn’t explain the situation.
This blog originally appeared in the Chicago Reported and then reposted on In These Time on November 18, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17378/chicago_ranks_fifth_in_highest_black_unemployment_rate
About the Author: Adeshina Emmanuel is a reporter for the Chicago Reporter.
Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
To mark the 25th anniversary of the National Child Care Staffing Study, Marcy Whitebook, Deborah Phillips, and Carollee Howes, the principal investigators and authors of the study, have released a white paper examining the progress over the past quarter-century in improving early childhood teaching jobs and attracting and retaining a well-prepared workforce able to foster children’s learning and development.
Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages compiles evidence from multiple sources to provide a portrait of the early childhood teaching workforce today in comparison to 25 years ago and how today’s parents are paying more for child care, but earning less.
The solution? Only by joining together can parents and child care professionals–and indeed whole communities–build a strong foundation for children’s learning and success by giving working parents and their children access to quality care and learning, and by paying wages that allow child care workers to secure a bright future for their own children and families.
This blog originally appeared in SEIU.org on November 18, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.seiu.org/2014/11/worthy-work-still-unlivable-wages.php.
Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms what voters felt when they went to the polls Tuesday: Job growth continues slowly but inadequately, built on a weak foundation of weak wage growth and low labor force participation.
There were 214,000 new jobs created in October, the report said, with the unemployment rate at 5.8 percent. It’s enough to prompt optimistic headlines, but as we’ve said repeatedly, this is well under the rate of growth we really need to make workers whole after the damage done by the 2008 recession. We’ve been living with unemployment above 5.8 percent since August 2008 – more than six years.
We still have an economy in which 32 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than 26 weeks – that’s almost 3 million people who the job market still does not have room to accommodate. The labor-force participation rate remains at a historic low, under 63 percent. Job growth continues to be concentrated in low-wage service jobs, with only modest increases in manufacturing, construction and other blue-collar occupations. Public-sector job growth barely budged upward.
Wage growth year-over-year remains stuck at about 2 percent, which in effect is virtually no growth at all when inflation is taken into account. Wages should be growing at a rate of 3.5 percent annually to remain consistent with the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target, so there is plenty of room to raise wages without raising fears of inflation.
This is the economic climate that drove voter anger and frustration Tuesday. It motivated voters to approve minimum-wage-increase referendums whenever they were on the ballot, even as they voted out Democrats who support a minimum wage increase but did not present a bold vision for how to rebuild middle-class prosperity.
Here’s where the tragedy of Tuesday’s election results come into sharp relief. Republicans were more successful than Democrats in tapping into voters’ economic anxiety, even with their record of blocking the policy changes needed to address the causes of that anxiety.
A major infrastructure investment program, done while borrowing costs are near zero, would have bolstered construction, manufacturing and other higher-age sectors. But that effort has now been held hostage to a deal to let corporations off the hook that have stashed profits overseas to avoid corporate taxes. Now that Republicans control the Senate as well as the House, we will see that deal go forward as a bipartisan “compromise” to show that Washington can “get things done.” Never mind that by any reasonable standard letting the nation’s biggest corporations keep billions of their ill-gotten gains from shifting profits overseas is too high a price to pay for the trickle of extra dollars that would be yielded for infrastructure.
There is even less of a chance that a Republican-controlled Congress, believing that every economic challenge is a nail that requires the hammer of top-end tax cuts and government spending cuts, will send increased state and local funds to the nation’s pockets of high unemployment. The Economic Policy Institute released a chart this week that showed that every state but two has shown a decline in the percentage of the working-age population with a job. The drop has been 3 percent nationally, and 28 states have percentages below the national average. Four states – Georgia, Kentucky, New Mexico and Arkansas – have declines that more than double the national average.
That shows how in so many ways, what gains there are in the economy are not broadly shared. This will not be fixed, as Republicans are saying, by repealing the Affordable Care Act, building the Keystone XL pipeline, and by cutting corporate taxes. We need to invest in infrastructure, clean energy, education from preschool to affordable college, and in the communities that are always left behind in a you’re-on-your-own economic climate. Voters who in frustration voted out Democrats who failed to present a vision for how this can be done will now have to join a movement to ensure that Washington and the nation cannot duck these issues in the months and years ahead.
This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org on November 7, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141107/jobs-report-under-the-sunny-headline-deep-roots-of-discontent.
About the author: Isaiah J. Poole has been the editor of OurFuture.org since 2007. Previously he worked for 25 years in mainstream media, most recently at Congressional Quarterly, where he covered congressional leadership and tracked major bills through Congress. Most of his journalism experience has been in Washington as both a reporter and an editor on topics ranging from presidential politics to pop culture. His work has put him at the front lines of ideological battles between progressives and conservatives. He also served as a founding member of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
The White House unveiled new executive actions on Monday
directing federal money toward new technologies, apprenticeship programs and competitions designed to assist small manufacturers. The idea is to make the U.S. a magnet for new jobs and investment.
The new executive action will:
- Allow the Pentagon, NASA, and the Energy and Agriculture departments to spend $300 million to develop advanced materials and new technology for sensors and digital manufacturing.
- Direct $100 million in Labor Department funds for apprenticeship programs aimed at advanced manufacturing.
- Authorize the Commerce Department to spend $150 million over five years in 10 states to help manufacturers adopt and market new technologies.
- Give manufacturers access to state-of-the-art facilities like those at national labs – to connect industry and universities on research and development and develop ‘technology testbeds’ where companies can design, prototype and test new products and processes.
President Obama began the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership in June 2011. The administration so far has launched four manufacturing innovation institutes – “hubs” – and there are four more on the way. They have also invested nearly $1 billion for community colleges to train workers for advanced manufacturing jobs.
There is expanded investment in applied research for emerging manufacturing technologies, and a new initiative to get returning veterans into jobs in advanced manufacturing.
This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org on October 27, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141027/president-obamas-latest-manufacturing-push
About the Author: Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.
Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
With the election nearing, Americans still know what they want: job creation. Unemployment is still elevated near 6 percent, and underemployment – including people who have given up looking for work, or who are working part-time when they want to be full-time – was still above 13 percent at last count.
And America’s employment problems precede the recession. That’s important because it suggests that this problem isn’t going away on its own. Underemployment hasn’t dipped below 8 percent in the last 10 years. Consider the decades-long stagnation of middle-class wages and the fact that it often takes two incomes to make ends meet, the long-term decline of union membership, the decimation of manufacturing, and the fact that higher education is becoming more of an economic necessity while also being less affordable. The 21st century labor market leaves too many Americans out in the cold.
America needs jobs, and not just any jobs. We need living-wage jobs that provide stability and security through regular working hours, paid time off and career paths for those who want to climb higher. And the economy is not creating those jobs on its own.
The good news is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Americans want jobs, and the federal government has the means to deliver. Over a trillion dollars in tax breaks each year and historically high Pentagon spending mean that America has the cash to pay for job creation – if we really want to.
Here are three winning ways we could invest our dollars in things that America actually needs, and create good jobs in the process:
? Get Real About Climate Change
Americans are warming up to the idea that climate change is real, and that it poses a threat. But that hasn’t translated to wanting to do something about it.
Of course, we must. From coastal damage from violent storms to disastrous effects on agriculture, climate change is already hurting us. Even the Pentagon is warning about potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change for national security.
Given our collective lack of economic security, perhaps it’s not a surprise that we only really pay attention to climate change when its devastating impacts are looping continuously on our TV screens. But what’s the nudge America needs to get real about climate change?
Maybe more awareness of the tremendous economic benefits that could result from serious action. A recent report from University of Massachusetts’ Political and Economic Research Institute (PERI) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) suggests that if America invested fully in battling climate change, we could achieve a 40 percent reduction in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions within 20 years, and create a net increase of 2.7 million jobs in the process.
The kind of investment that PERI and CAP propose – around $200 billion a year – could be truly transformational to the American economy. And while the proposed $200 billion a year is a big investment, it’s less than the government currently manages to shell out to defense contractors each year.
? Invest in Infrastructure
American ingenuity has taken many forms, and our infrastructure achievements have been some of the most spectacular in the world. From bringing the world the internet, to railroads and the interstate highway system, to hydropower dams like the Hoover Dam that both awe us and provide us with renewable energy, to feats of engineering and art like the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges, our infrastructure has long made Americans proud.
But that infrastructure is crumbling. Major infrastructure investments in the 20th century have been left to a slow and steady decline. This year Congress came within hours of allowing the Highway Trust Fund, a major funding source for states’ road repairs, to dry up – along with 700,000 jobs.
Construction jobs are good jobs. They pay well, and they don’t require a lot of formal education, making them a critical stepping stone to the middle class for workers without a college degree.
Infrastructure is an investment that makes good economic sense for the times we’re in. As former National Economic Council Director Larry Summers has pointed out, infrastructure is a sensible investment for our times: it can’t be offshored, unemployment among construction workers remains high, and interest rates are at historical lows. As Summers asks, if not now, when?
? Believe the Children Are Our Future
Americans talk a good game about this one, but we don’t put our money where our mouth is. Only two percent of all federal spending is for education.
President Obama proposed a modest funding level of $750 million to invest in Preschool for All in two thirds of the states. Despite strong bipartisan support for public preschool among Americans, his proposal has seen no serious congressional consideration and is not likely to be included when Congress revisits fiscal year 2015 funding levels in December.
But it should be. Public preschool is about as winning a proposition as there is. Evidence shows that quality preschool contributes to better outcomes later in life, and not just in education and career outcomes. Preschool contributes to better health and lower criminal activity, and it makes a particularly big difference for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, making it a crucial tool in the battle against economic inequality.
It’s also worthwhile as a pure investment: for every dollar invested in preschool, society saves as much as $17 down the road. At that rate, the president’s requested $750 million, which is a tiny blip on the radar of federal spending, would save more than $12 billion in years to come.
From the job creation perspective, a strong publicly supported preschool system would require many teachers with a credential like an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and middle-class wages to match.
Each of these proposals requires new uses for our tax dollars. We should remember that America’s greatest achievements didn’t come through austerity or tax cuts; they came through heroic levels of public investment. Making that investment will create jobs now and a strong legacy for the future. Now, that’s a win.
This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org. October 21, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141021/three-winning-ways-to-create-jobs
About the Author: Lindsay Koshgarian is research director for the National Priorities Project.