The following blog was authored by Susan Rees, Director of National Policy & Projects at Wider Opportunities for Women.
The most painless way to get our budget back into balance is to create jobs for America’s 15 million unemployed and the millions more who have given up looking for work. Not only will they be better able to support their families and become self-fulfilled citizens themselves, but they will resume paying taxes, including the payroll taxes that finance Social Security and Medicare.
A full employment strategy should be certain to consider the issues facing older workers who are having particular difficulty finding employment in this recession. Only 12% of workers over age 50 unemployed in April 2009 had found work in March of this year, compared to 29% of workers age 30-49, according to a survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers. This looks a lot like forced early retirement to me. Then there are those who willingly retired before their normal retirement age but found their retirement accounts decimated by the recession. Now they also need work, often in a new field or a part-time job, just to stay even.
Job creation is a win-win as far as our budget deficit goes. To revitalize our economy over the long run we need “all hands on deck,” as President Obama says. Buckminster Fuller once said if you put a thousand people to work just thinking, one of them will come up with an idea to pay all the rest.
We have plenty of work that needs to be done while we wait for the promised new green economy to take hold. There is tutoring and mentoring for school children, early childhood education and day care, services for the sick and isolated, staffing for recreation and arts programs, the list goes on and on. One legislative solution is the Local Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4812) that would create or save a million jobs providing needed community services in nonprofits and public agencies. For those who need a job and new skills, it would fund 50,000 on-the-job training slots with private employers.
Let’s give our people productive work. It’s time to turn this lemon of an economy into lemonade.