The White House jobs summit may have provided some good photo-ops for the administration, but it must go beyond that and deliver jobs for the American people. With the unemployment rate still in double digits, it is time for government to do what government is meant to do: step in when private forces are inadequate to the problem.
For what the United States is about to spend on soldiers in Afghanistan, $30 billion, more than 3 million jobs could be created in this country. These jobs would not be high-paying ones but would quickly replace 40 percent of those lost during the Great Recession, and they would be most beneficial to those who have suffered the most during this downturn—lower-paid workers.
A government investment in these workers would not just put money in their pockets but would strengthen the resumes of millions of Americans, so they can better compete in the private job market.
These jobs should also be aimed at strengthening communities, providing assistance in education and public works, and focused on those who have experienced extended unemployment or live in high-unemployment, high-poverty areas.
By ending public subsidies for high and excessive executive pay, more money could be spent on strengthening the Workforce Investment Act. This type of investment will especially help young adults enter and remain in the workforce. About $10 billion should be spent on strengthening the scope and reach of such programs as Job Corps and YouthBuild. Another $10 billion or so could go to a tax credit for businesses that hire people who have gone through programs related to the Workforce Investment Act.
The administration should also consider an equity assessment of all future spending focused on strengthening the economy to make sure poor and working-class families get their fair share of the help. A proper assessment should determine where funds go, what jobs are created, and in what communities. This information will help make sure that government funds get to working-class and middle-class Americans who must be at the center of the economic recovery.
It is clear that the private economy is not yet capable of generating the kind of job creation that will help the economy rebound. The most effective means for the government to assist in job creation is simply to create jobs. We must get past narrow ideological debates and take action. The Obama administration must move beyond the photo-ops and start creating jobs to move us beyond these challenging times.
Dedrick Muhammad is a senior organizer and research associate for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. He is also a member of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development’s Experts of Color Network.