Creating jobs isn’t cheap or easy. Not for the private sector and not for the public sector.
But Americans need jobs. We need to be able to work hard all day and provide for our families. While no solutions are easy, there are important steps that the government can and should take now to create jobs and improve the economy in the long run. Lawmakers need to start making the hard decisions to get the 25 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed back to work.
Here are a few steps that President Barack Obama and Congress can take to create jobs now and into the future.
- Build infrastructure: Fix our roads, bridges, and schools. Build new high-speed rail projects, and expand our information superhighway too, by increasing broadband access and capacity. Build more bike trails and walking paths. National and regional infrastructure banks could mobilize the capital and ensure that projects are chosen on merit.
- Encourage companies to boost manufacturing and purchase services in the United States. We should instill buy-American provisions in all government procurement contracts. If Americans are required to pay for something with their tax dollars, it should be made here at home when possible, even if it costs a little more. And let’s challenge China’s trade policies, which create an unfair system that stacks the deck against American-made goods.
- Put young people who need jobs to work. Expand AmeriCorps, create an Urban Corps to retrofit buildings, a Green Corps to repair parks and plant trees, and a Service Corps to create jobs in nonprofit organizations. We can’t allow a generation to come out of high school or back from Afghanistan and Iraq and then fall into despair.
- Give teachers and cops fewer pink slips. Now is not the time to lay off badly needed teachers, police officers, and firefighters. Direct support for vital government services will save jobs — and keep our communities strong.
- Generate green energy jobs. We should invest now in wind, solar, and geo-thermal power, and in retrofitting public and private buildings. This will put people to work now, while making America once more an industrial leader.
Do these solutions cost money? Yes, they do. To pay for a jobs program to save our economy, millionaires and billionaires should start paying their fair share of taxes. The Bush tax cuts should be eliminated, as should loopholes and subsidies that enrich oil companies and big agribusiness outfits that don’t need the extra cash.
It’s not just government. We need the private sector to help too. We need big business to stop shipping jobs overseas. We need them to stop hoarding their cash and invest here at home. In exchange, we need to commit to working our tails off. Americans have gotten a bum rap — we are some of the hardest-working people in the world, and we can use our talent to make the world better.
Instead, corporations want to get cheap labor to make cheap goods. I, for one, would pay more for something well-made and for good customer service. But how can we convince Wall Street and the finance barons to give us a chance to work hard?
America is still a great democracy. But when big money has a megaphone in Washington through campaign contributions, the people must speak up.
OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to OtherWords.org. To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.