Can New AFL-CIO Plan Save Two Million Jobs -- and the Dems in 2010?

05/25/2011 02:40 pm ET
  • Art Levine Contributing Editor, The Washington Monthly

Democratic leaders yesterday sent their strongest signals yet that they were eager to pass a jobs creation and benefits-extension package to help stop the economic and political bleeding caused by a 10 percent official unemployment rate, the worst in a generation.

They have to promote job growth, in part, to stem looming anti-incumbent rage. That anger is also being fed by the faux populism of the "Tea Baggers" and GOP-driven attacks, no matter how distorted, on the credibility and impact of President Obama's original $787 billion stimulus bill.

As the New York Times captured the atmosphere on Capitol Hill:

With Congressional Democrats in near-panic amid forecasts that unemployment will remain high through next November's midterm elections, a party leader said that the House will pass a new "jobs bill" before Dec. 18...

With more than half of last winter's $787 billion package of tax cuts and stimulus spending still in the pipeline, Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader from Maryland, said the new measure should not be called another stimulus bill.

"I don't want it to be as broad as that," he said. "I want it to be very targeted on jobs."

And that's what a bold new recovery proposal from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka aims to accomplish; it was announced Tuesday at at an Economic Policy Institute panel where Trumka was joined by civil rights leaders and other reformers. For instance, Wade Henderson, the president of the National Leadership Council on Civil Rights, declared, "Make no mistake, for us this is the civil rights issue of the moment. Unless we resolve the national job crisis, it will make it hard to address all of our other priorities."

To save or create two million jobs in a year, the price-tag for new direct spending on jobs creation could be in the $150 billion to $200 billion range over one year, one liberal economics expert privately told me.

Trumka hasn't yet spelled out the cost details in arguing for urgent action, but already conservative-leaning media is spreading misinformation about his plan. Bloomberg News reported that Trumka was asking to spend up to $3 trillion now, while he was actually just citing research data that the nation's infrastructure needs $2 to $3 trillion in upgrading and repairs.

The AFL-CIO plan actually includes five key elements, as the AFL-CIO outlined them:

  • 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.

You can read the full story, and learn about the economic and political stakes at work in pending jobs stimulus proposals in Congress, at