Jack Metzgar from the Chicago Institute for Working Class Studies, on the need to address the unemployment crisis before it becomes further embedded:
The American labor movement has been making that 9-1-1 call to the White House for several months now, and not getting through. Unions in coalition with the Center for Community Change and the National Urban League are backing variations of “A Five-Point Plan to Stem the U.S. Jobs Crisis”. The plan would create (or save) more than 4 million jobs. Though it would add $400 billion to the federal government deficit this year, it would be paid for over the next 10 years by a small (1/2 of 1%) tax on stock trades and other financial instruments — a tax initially proposed more than a decade ago to discourage speculative investment of the sort that led to the financial meltdown in 2008. In other words, the tax is probably a good idea anyway, would be paid only by investors, and it would allow job creation now to reduce the national debt in the long run. Economists from the AFL-CIO and its rival Change to Win met with White House economists to advocate for this program about the same time as Don Peck’s article appeared. The response, I’m told, was “politely dismissive.”
As a Chicagoan who roots for our home-town heroes, I’ve been especially forgiving of Barack Obama. Most of his critics seem to me to underestimate the level of difficulty Obama has faced given the character, severity, and timing of the Great Recession, the anti-functional rules of the U.S. Senate, the complexity of health care economics, and many other things. But it is not difficult for a U.S. President to prioritize a house on fire over a crack in the foundation. Part of the President’s job is to set the agenda for what gets public attention. By establishing a bi-partisan commission to address the national debt while presenting a budget that basically says double-digit unemployment is acceptable for the next couple years, the President is making errors of both mind and heart. It also seems like really dumb politics. Pick up the phone, Barack, the house is on fire.