Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wisconsin's unemployed need jobs!

The nation lost another 36,000 jobs last month bringing the total job loss to 8.4 million jobs since the recession began. More than 15 million Americans are officially unemployed!

Forty percent of the unemployed have been without work for more than six months. If we include those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment and those who have given up looking for work (discouraged workers) 29 million (16.8%) are either unemployed or unemployed. And that's only part of the story.

We are short another 2.7 million jobs, positions that are needed to absorb the 100,000 workers entering the labor market every month.

Last week Republican Senator Jim Bunning, who lost his fastball years ago, held up 100,000 Americans' unemployment checks because he claimed to be concerned about the growing federal deficit.

And Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, defended Bunning arguing unemployment relief “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”

There are more than six unemployed workers for every job opening and the number of long- term unemployed is greater than at any time since the Great Depression. Yet Kyl feigns concern that extending unemployment benefits discourages people from working. This is truly amazing!

Republicans like Bunning and Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan, and moderate Democrats helped create the nation's river of red ink by supporting President Bush's $1.8 trillion high income tax cuts and the trillion dollar invasion of Iraq. Now they in the name of fiscal responsibility they want to ignore the more pressing 11.1 million jobs deficit. To fill that hole, while keeping up with a growing work force, requires the creation of more than 400,000 new jobs a month for three years — wildly in excess of even the most optimistic projections.

America's working people and their families are hurting and no one in Washington DC or Madison seem to be listening.

Congress is working on a very modest bill that will provide tax credits, at best an ineffective form of stimulus, to businesses that hire new workers. But as Milwaukee's Congresswoman Gwen Moore said when she voted against the bill:

I’ve talked with employers and small business owners in Milwaukee, and they resoundingly told me that the tax credits in this bill will not help them hire new people. What they need are customers – customers with money to spend. And customers need jobs.

Job creating legislation needs to be targeted to areas with persistent unemployment like we have in Milwaukee, and I’ve been advocating to make sure that we focus on the areas that need it most. This bill does exactly the opposite.

I am working with my colleagues to make sure that no one forgets about the folks in communities where unemployment is more than double the national average.

A jobs bill needs to actually create jobs.

The nation needs a real jobs bill that includes an extension of unemployment benefits which account for only 0.07% of the GDP and direct aid to state and local governments. Extending unemployment benefits is not only the right thing to do for people who are unemployed through not fault of their own, but it is one of the best forms of economic stimulus because the money will be immediately spent. Without increased federal aid to the states and local governments, they will be forced to slash their spending and lay-off even more workers, including firefighters, police officers, other first responders and teachers, further depressing consumption and private sector growth driven by government purchases.

The Wisconsin Legislature has also done very little to address the state's job gap. At a minimum it ought to help low-wage and part-time workers by passing an increase in the state's minimum wage which it has been sitting on for over a year.

A jobs bill should, as Moore said, create jobs. There is important work that needs to be done in this country, rebuilding the deteriorating infrastructure of roads, bridges, levees, parks, urban water system, and schools, and there are unemployed workers who want to work! Public investments like these would not only put people back to work, but lay the basis for long term economic growth. What are our elected officials waiting for?

When politicians say they are focused on jobs, jobs, jobs they should mean more than their own.

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