Let the Conversation Begin: A Unified Approach to the Economic Crisis

Let the Conversation Begin:  A Unified Approach to the Economic Crisis

by Tracy Kurowski

On December 3, President Obama will convene a summit on jobs. With the national unemployment rate officially in the double-digits, the economic crisis has affected every sector of our nation's economy having dramatic results on the ability of local governments to raise revenues. Since states, cities and counties must balance their budgets, their response has been to cut costs in the forms of more layoffs. Not only does this result in reduced services for the rest of us, across the country, public sector job cuts are now contributing seriously to the overall unemployment rate.
There are glimmers of hope. The rate of job losses has declined, there is marked job growth in the health sector and temporary jobs. Also, reports that inventory numbers are down could lead to calling people back from layoff. Already John Deere's Ottumwa plant has called back 400 of its workers.
However, the economy isn't a zero-sum game. Job losses in manufacturing cannot simply be replaced with jobs in the service sector to end up where we began. When our country loses well-paying manufacturing jobs to lower-paying service sector jobs, or jobs that no longer promise defined-benefit pensions, there is less income, less spending and less security for our nations retirees. A full 17% of our nation's economy is driven by consumer spending. American consumers need jobs to fund this habit. When over the course of the last two decades, the income could not keep up with habits, credit filled the hole. Now that the credit markets have dried up and consumer debt is at untenable levels, this system cannot sustain itself.
What we are currently seeing isn't the ususal expand-contract economic model economic pundits speak of. We are witnessing the degeneration of the neoliberal economic system. What fills that vaccuum nobody knows. But on December 3, officially that conversation begins. Whether the Obama Administration will approach the crisis with band-aids or with serious deliberation over policy, is to be seen. But organized labor needs to ensure that policies like the Employee Free Choice Act – so workers in the service-sector have more freedom to negotiate the wages and benefits our forefathers in the manufacturing sector established – are part of the discussion.
Last week AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka held a conference call with the Economic Policy Institute, National Council on La Raza and others to talk about a unified approach to the economic crisis. Below are remarks about that forum, and a suggested platform moving forward. 

Here is an excerpt from an article at the AFL-CIO blog, by Seth Michaels.  Reprinted with permission.

~The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and other leaders have joined together to call for urgent action to create jobs and rebuild the economy.

In a live webcast panel discussion, the consensus was clear: Without quick action, an entire generation could be mired in economic turmoil. The nation can, and must, put people back to work—while addressing critical needs for the future of our communities. [see C-span coverage of the event]  

The scale of the jobs crisis is obvious: Since the beginning of the recession, more than 8 million jobs have been lost. The official unemployment rate is at 10.2 percent, with more than 26 million unemployed or underemployed. These figures are even more severe among African American and Latino communities. Young people are at risk of permanently stunted opportunity, and the jobs crisis is rebounding throughout the country with increased hunger and poverty, massive numbers of home foreclosures and diminished access to health care.

In addition to Trumka, participants in today’s discussion included NAACP President Benjamin Jealous; National Council of La Raza (NCLR) President Janet Murguia; Leadership Conference on Civil Rights President (LCCR) Wade Henderson; and Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. EPI President Larry Mishel moderated the conversation, which Jealous called the beginning of a national human rights movement for economic opportunity.

Trumka laid out five critical points that must underlie a new jobs agenda:

   1. Extend the lifeline for jobless workers.
   2. Rebuild America’s schools, roads and energy systems.
   3. Increase aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services.
   4. Fund jobs in our communities.
   5. Put TARP funds to work for Main Street.

Trumka said that the coalition will push the White House and Congress to act on these recommendations immediately, starting at President Barack Obama’s Dec. 3 Jobs Summit.

(click here to read the entire article by Seth Michaels at AFL-CIO blog)

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