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Jobs Creation or Deficit Reduction? The Public Has Decided


Stop by any corner grocery store and ask the people standing in line:  What do you worry about most—jobs or the nation’s budget deficit?

If they don’t choke up laughing, chances are real high they’ll give the same response as did the public in two recent polls:

Priority #1: Jobs.

Priority #2: Jobs.

Priority #3: Jobs.

A poll for Democracy Corps published Nov. 30 found that when given a choice, “voters embrace a bold jobs initiative over a long-term deficit reduction program by two-to-one.” A survey taken by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) earlier this fall revealed the same: The Hart Research Associates poll found that by a margin of 53 percent to 42 percent, the public is more concerned about rising unemployment rates than the rising federal deficit.

Yet some in Congress continue to cry “Wolf” about the federal budget deficit, pushing the Obama administration to focus on cutting the deficit rather than on creating jobs. Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) are trying to create a “deficit-reduction commission” that would override the normal legislative process and replace it with expedited procedures prohibiting amendments and limiting debate.

The jobs-killing commission—because ultimately, that will be its effect—has the distinct odor of the “flush government down the toilet” expediency we’ve seen before. Got a crisis? Use it to kill public programs that help—the public.

In a statement sent yesterday to all members of the U.S. House and Senate, 30 national groups, including the Campaign for America’s Future and the AFL-CIO, strongly urged Congress to oppose creation of such a commission.

Those supporting this circumvention of the normal process have stated openly the desire to avoid political accountability. Americans—seniors, women, working families, people with disabilities, young adults, children, people of color, veterans, communities of faith and others—expect their elected representatives to be responsible and accountable for shaping such significant, far-reaching legislation.

The undemocratic commission is among several roadblocks or diversions Republicans and their willing sycophants (David Broder is all in favor of it—need we say more?) are pushing to derail movement on what working people in this country really need: a strong jobs program spearheaded by federal initiative. Even as President Obama’s Jobs Summit is wrapping up this afternoon, House Minority Leader John “No one supports a public option” Boehner is holding a faux jobs summit to drain the traditional media’s limited attention away from the Obama initiative.

Taking part in today’s White House Jobs Summit, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is discussing our five-point jobs creation plan, which calls for extension of unemployment insurance, which will expire for millions at the end of the year, as well as spending on infrastructure, to jump-start the economy in the short-term. Long-term measures also will be needed, and those should be funded by a financial transactions tax that would generate $150 billion in annual revenue. More than 200 economists have signed on in support of a financial transactions tax. It would quickly pay back the deficit spending necessary and is wrapped in a nicely named bill sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.): “Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act.”

In a conference call about the nation’s jobs crisis this week, economist James Galbraith agreed with the multiplicity of economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman and University of California professor Brad DeLong, that now is not the time to cut deficits. (Scarecrow covers Galbraith in-depth here.) In fact, funding a jobs program now will save money in the future by slowing the damage being done to the economy—to working people. Says Galbraith:

The reality is that the budget deficits are the medicine that have kept the economy from completely imploding. They are the life support system that have provided the stabilization that to some extent has occurred.

Those pushing “deficit reduction commissions” and other distractions are presuming—or pretending—that jobs will come back and all will be well in Whoville if nothing is done. Wrong, say smart economists like EPI’s Heidi Shierholz:

If we don’t do more…all things are working against a quick recovery. We’re facing a real threat we could fall back into another technical recession.

The nation needs to create jobs—now. Private-sector corporations have totally failed at the task, so as usual, government must step in and clean up the mess left by Wall Street greed and corporate outsourcing. As Galbraith put it, approvingly quoting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

We will never have deficit reduction without jobs creation. 

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell