This is the season of gift giving and, for millions of us, the present we really need is a job.
We know that American families need jobs. But American businesses also need jobs—rather, they need customers with jobs. When millions of unemployed workers and their families have little money to spend, businesses, big and small, have few customers. Production stalls, hiring is frozen and investments are put on hold. Firms cannot thrive and the economy will not return to health until people can afford to buy the things they need.
The nation also needs jobs—it needs people with jobs who are paying their income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes. Tax revenues have fallen and government budget deficits have exploded because people are not working. To get deficits under control, we must put people back to work, back to earning money and back to paying taxes. Job creation must be our nation’s highest priority.
The nation’s official jobless rate is 9.8 percent, or nearly one in 10 workers. But the official count only includes people who are actively looking for work. Someone who has given up and stopped looking is not counted. Older workers who have declared themselves “retired” when they had planned to continue working are not counted. Another 9 million people are working part-time when they want full-time work. All together, more than 28 million people, or more than one in six potential workers, are either unemployed or under-employed. This more comprehensive, “real” count is nearly twice the official one.
A federal program to create millions of needed jobs will be costly. But in this very wealthy nation, the money could be found if jobs were our highest priority. Congress could have ended the Bush tax cuts for the 2 percent of taxpayers with the highest incomes, or raised the estate tax to the level it was in previous years. But a Congress that chooses instead to extend these tax breaks for the wealthy cannot honestly claim there is no money for jobs. There is money. But it is funding tax breaks for the rich, not jobs for the unemployed.
There are other potential sources of money for jobs, ways to raise money that also strengthen the economy and close tax loopholes. We could put a tax on financial transactions that would bring in money while also reducing speculation and strengthening the financial system. We could tax capital gains (money made from selling stock and other investments) at the same rate as we tax wages and salaries. We could tax hedge fund managers at least at the same rate as we tax their secretaries.
Working people have a clear choice. We can either beg Santa for jobs (and many of us have already tried that one) or we can come together and demand that our elected officials do what’s right for working families, businesses and our nation: Create jobs.
This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.
About The Author: Edith Rasell is on the national staff of the United Church of Christ serving as Minister for Economic Justice in Justice and Witness Ministries. She works with UCC congregations around the country as well as national and international organizations to bring greater economic justice to people in the U.S. and around the world, especially the poor and marginalized. Read more about Edith’s work on the UCC Economic Justice home page.