Thursday, December 3, 2009

When Opportunity And Need Meet

Every country has the moral imperative of providing opportunity and liberty. America is not living up to its standard. Being a recent college graduate I was expecting to find a job quickly. Along with other community members I continue to search. Besides renting movies and moving boxes, and after the movie store shutdown, I have yet to find meaningful employment.

On Thursday December 3rd, President Obama held a jobs summit in Washington. The gathering will brings corporations, small business leaders, labor unions and finical experts to discuss how to put Americans back to work. However the President did not invite any unemployed workers actually facing the problem.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics disclosed manufacturing jobs as a share of total employment has steadily decreased since 1948 from 27.5 to 6.9 in 2008. America has stopped making stuff. The stimulus money has provided us with an opportunity to invest in America's manufacturing. When we make stuff more people get to work, the unemployment level will decline.

The Center for Community Change has proposed a community jobs program rooted in communities that are facing economic challenges. The program will put 2.5 million people a year back to work at a cost of $100 billion a year. The Center is asking for a three year deal. The program is set to take on our crumbling infrastructure while building worker skills to prepare them for long term careers not just short term building projects. This program will benefit our youth and at risk population the greatest. The program not only provides them with a job in the short term, but with career skills and needed experience.

Local governments have been addressing violence and unemployment but cannot do it alone. Here in Union City, voters approved measure UU. A violence prevention and intervention program. It features outreach workers who work with troubled youth, also a jobs coordinator to get these kids working and out of the street life. But without businesses hiring them they will turn to the drug trade and street life to support themselves. Our local efforts will be undermined without a community jobs program.

Congress approved the the nearly one trillion dollar stimulus bill nine months ago. Yet Saturday the New York Times reported that one is eight Americans are on food stamps. The Congressional Budget Office reported Monday that of the $787 billion stimulus package only $100 billion has been spent, $90 billion came in the form of tax cuts. The unemployment rate in October was 10.2%.

There is $687 billion in stimulus money yet to be spent. We can reverse the trend of declining manufacturing but also set the standard for a new manufacturing economy. There is a market for things made in America and a market for things made in an environmentally sustainable way. We need to capitalize on both.

Currently we allow products that do not respect labor or environmental laws to compete on the same playing field as those who do. American companies cannot compete against companies playing by a different set of rules. It is vital to our economic recovery to place high tariffs on these products, give incentive to companies who respect labor and the environment, thereby leveling the playing field. Otherwise, our local efforts will be thwarted by free trade instead of protected by fair trade.

It is clear that America needs to make things. It has been proven that we need to invest in manufacturing things in a way that respect the environment and the workers. With the stimulus money we can invest in companies who produce things in an environmentally sustainable way but also live up to their moral imperative to provide a fair wage. By instituting fair trade policies, we will protect American companies who follow the rules and hinder those who do not. The American dream might be in jeopardy, but when opportunity and need meet, amazing dreams will come true.

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