Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) has proposed a jobs bill that would provide more than two million jobs for people who are currently unemployed. The “Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act,” dovetails perfectly with continuing progressive efforts to switch from a defensive mindset and go on offense. In fact, the name of the bill suggests influences from the recent effort by moveon.org and Van Jones (former Obama administration official), “Rebuild The American Dream”. Representative Schakowsky says that this bill represents the spirit of the Contract for the American Dream.
The proposed plan includes $227 billion in expenditures over a two year period, along with a “Fairness in Taxation” act to pay for the initiative. The taxation portion raises taxes on millionaires, while closing loopholes currently benefiting companies that “outsource” jobs overseas and ends oil company subsidies. Schakowsky’s press release for the legislation calls on Congress to “focus like a laser on the most pressing crisis facing our country – the jobs crisis.”
Under the bill, priority for job placement would go to those who have been unemployed and have run out of benefits, along with veterans. Geographic allocation of the jobs would be determined by a community’s unemployment rate. Other key points of the bill include:
- School improvement jobs would account for 400,000 construction and 250,000 maintenance positions.
- The park improvement portion would create 100,000 jobs for people between ages 16 and 25 through a number of public agencies.
- 250,000 part-time work study jobs would be created for college students.
- A “Neighborhood Heroes Corps” would be created to employ 300,000 teachers, 40,000 police and 12,000 firefighters.
- Other targeted areas include health care, child care and a “Community Corps” that would do recycling, housing rehabilitation, weatherization and conservation.
This bill goes far beyond just putting people to work (as important as that is) and addresses many of the problems in America’s infrastructure. John Maynard Keynes, during the Great Depression, offered the advice “get the ball rolling” and mentioned repairing railroads along with other infrastructure that could be implemented in 6 months (shovel ready, as we prefer to call it now).
Shakowsky’s bill will face a tough battle in Congress, with conservative commentators attempting to make it sound like a new “Communist Manifesto”. Of course, the mere fact that it has been proposed at all owes a great deal to the rallies and petitions coordinated by moveon and Van Jones, et al. It may be possible that continued efforts by progressive groups will improve the odds for this bill. Even if the bill fails, it plays an important role in defining its opponents as “anti-job” and pro wealthy at a time when such stands are becoming ever more unpopular.
American citizens continue to grow more comfortable with tax increases, while Republican Presidential candidates refuse to consider victory when offered 90% of what they want, in apparent denial of reality. Continued denial of the actual situation faced by those who used to be America’s middle class and those barely clinging to that category could well come back to bite the GOP’s sensitive side in the coming elections.
Mike Davis is a local community organizer for groups such as the Coffee Party and Moveon.org and works with Veterans for Peace on a regular basis.