The Jobs Summit:
A Historic Opportunity for the Obama Administration
Dear President Obama:
Despite a multi-billion-dollar stimulus earlier this year, unemployment
continued to rise and is now double-digit. The Jobs Summit that
convening is clear recognition of the gravity of this crisis.
We write to urge that
the Jobs Summit adopt a bold course of action to deal with current
unemployment and, since unemployment and underemployment afflict
millions of Americans, even in better times, to take steps toward
assuring a living-wage job to all who want to work.
Your first stimulus appropriated $787 billion. Your own economic
predict that it will create or save only four million jobs. If
so, the cost will be
$200,000 per job! But what if that money had instead been spent
solely for direct job creation in the cities and towns where it
is needed most—to repair bridges, dams and levees, to provide
child and elder care, to construct affordable housing, to make
existing housing energy efficient…In that case, the cost
per job would have been much less. Assume, for example, that these
newly employed workers earned the current average weekly wage
for full- and part-time workers ($618) and that there was an additional
one-third of the wage bill for materials and supplies ($207) plus
$140 for benefits: a total of $966 per week or a yearly cost of
$50,232. Instead of four million jobs, a strategy of direct job
creation would have paid for over 15 million jobs, not counting
the indirect job creation effect of this spending. This would
have been enough to wipe out official unemployment.
Your predecessor President Franklin D. Roosevelt not only undertook
unprecedented action to cope with the emergency of a Great Depression.
F.D. R. also seized that opportunity to undertake permanent reform:
We cannot be content, no matter how high the general standard
of living may be, if some fraction of our people … is ill-fed,
ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure (FDR, 1933).
As a result of full employment during World War II, Roosevelt
convinced that it was desirable and possible for the Federal government
permanently assure a job for everyone who wants one. FDR recognized
“true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security
independence” and, in 1944, called for an Economic Bill
of Rights. The list began with the right to a “useful and
remunerative job” and included, among others decent housing,
adequate food, medical care and recreation. More than six decades
later, these rights continue to elude us.
President Obama, the American people await a big assault on unemployment
from your Administration. It is not hard to predict what the midterm
elections will bring if substantial reduction of unemployment
does not occur
by fall 2010. When you became President official unemployment
percent; it was 10.2% in November, an increase of more than a
Federal government spent $700 billion buying “troubled assets”
to bail out
financial institutions and nearly $800 billion to stimulate the
economy, Why can’t we spend another $800 billion to give
every officially unemployed worker the opportunity to work and
provide billions of dollars of socially useful output.
You have a historic opportunity, President Obama. You can propose
intensive stimulus and, having shown that government can solve
can lead us toward fulfillment of an Economic Bill of Rights.
We can then begin an assault on hidden unemployment, which is
typically about as large as the official count. The fulfillment
of this economic right would be a giant step toward true democracy.
Endorsed by the Chicago Political Economy Group
November 23, 2009