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More Jobs = Less Debt

In the worst economy since the Great Depression, far too many Americans are out of work. Despite the rising fears of more job losses, the Senate is refusing to do what is necessary to protect and create jobs. On Thursday, the Senate failed to break a Republican filibuster of the jobs bill, meaning that states will not get help with their budget shortfalls; and more than 1.5 million unemployed Americans will lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this week.

At the same time, U.S. companies are sitting on $1.8 trillion, the most cash they have ever hoarded. Stockpiling this vast amount of money means less investment in economic growth, fewer new hires and continued unemployment for millions of Americans. Corporations, the Republican party and so-called ‘deficit hawks’ are prolonging the recession with their irresponsible games. The reckless policies of corporate America put us into the economic ditch. The truth is that investment in America’s economy and its people is the only way to get out.

The more jobs we create now, the less federal debt our children will have to carry later. Jobs not only put food on the table, they put revenue in the Treasury and money in the marketplace.

Last month, only 45,000 private sector jobs were created. State and local governments laid off 22,000 employees. More than five job seekers are available for every one available job. Nearly 7 million workers have been unemployed now for more than six months. Those are signals that we may see a double dip recession and more people out of work – that means “it will get worse – much worse.”

Congress must act immediately to avoid the loss of hundreds of thousands more jobs in the coming months. Senators who block the emergency jobs bill are wrapping a hangman’s noose around the state and local governments that cope with increasing demand for vital public services during dire economic times. And they’re making it harder for our nation to get out of the economic crisis.

Failing to pass a jobs bill that contains this important funding would mean more lost jobs, while making it harder to rebuild the economy, cut down the deficit and get our nation back to prosperity.

Unlike the federal government, most state and local governments are required to balance their budgets. As a result, at a time of decreased tax revenues, state and local governments must cut back on the vital services Americans rely upon during troubling economic times. Job cuts come along with the budget cuts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 180,000 local public-sector jobs have already been lost since August 2008.

Matters may soon become worse. Georgia State Sen. Don Balfour, the Republican who heads the National Conference of State Legislatures, wrote to Senate leaders earlier this month calling for an extension of aid to states. “States continue to address sizeable budget gaps that have compelled state lawmakers to make dramatic programmatic and revenue changes in order to ensure balanced general fund budgets,” he wrote.

The urgent need for action was underscored by a study released recently by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers. The Fiscal Survey of States revealed that while some signs of improvement can be seen in the overall economy, “state fiscal conditions continue to deteriorate.” The report makes a compelling case that state and local governments need help to protect a million jobs in this difficult economy. It also points out that recovery could be a long way off for our state and local governments.

This country’s fragile economy cannot grow if elected officials in Washington refuse to take the action needed to put our country back to work. We intend to make sure that the American people understand what this reckless failure to act will cost in terms of our recovery. If we are to avoid massive additional job cuts and more debt, the jobs bill must include critical funding for states and local governments.

More jobs equal less debt. Congress must act now to protect workers and promote American jobs.

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Gerald McEntee

Gerald McEntee

Gerald W. McEntee is the International President of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the most aggressive and politically active organizing unions in the AFL-CIO. Since 2006, 145,000 women and men have changed their lives by forming a union with AFSCME. McEntee was first elected AFSCME President in 1981 and was re-elected in July 2008 to another four-year term.

As a Vice President of the AFL-CIO and chair of the Political Education Committee, McEntee is a key leader of the labor movement and its political efforts. Under McEntee’s leadership, the federation created its highly successful and much imitated voter education and mobilization program, which increased the number of union household voters to a record 26 percent of the electorate in 2006.

McEntee has long been a leader in the fight to reform the nation’s health care system. He chairs the AFL-CIO’s Health Care Committee and is a co-chair of Health Care for America NOW!, a national grassroots coalition that has launched a $40 million campaign to guarantee quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

McEntee is a co-founder and chairman of the board of the Economic Policy Institute, the preeminent voice for working Americans on the economy. He led the successful fight to stop President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security, was an outspoken proponent for increasing the federal minimum wage, and is one of the nation’s leading advocates for America’s vital public services.

For his efforts to improve the lives of working families, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights presented McEntee with its prestigious Hubert H. Humphrey Award in 2004.

Before assuming the presidency of AFSCME, McEntee began his distinguished career as a labor leader in Pennsylvania in 1958. He led the drive to unionize more than 75,000 Pennsylvania public service employees, which at that time was the largest union mobilization in history. He was elected Executive Director at the founding convention of AFSCME Council 13 in Pennsylvania in 1973 and an International Vice President of AFSCME in 1974.

McEntee holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. A native of Philadelphia, McEntee and his wife Barbara live in Washington, DC.