05/27/2010 10:56 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

One Million Jobs: Yes We Can

Millions of skilled, talented people are looking and are ready for meaningful work. The jobs are not there. The government can and should do something about it.

Yesterday, the Campaign for Community Change and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights hosted the Putting America Back to Work: Direct Job Creation in Local Communities congressional forum. Unemployed and underemployed people from diverse ages, backgrounds and experiences came to Washington to humanize the economic crisis in a way that statistics and unemployment numbers cannot. Each of them forcefully told the members of Congress present that they needed a job and called for support of the Local Jobs for America Act.

But as Rosemary Hicks and six others were sharing their stories on Capitol Hill, on the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama stood in the Rose Garden and declared that government can't create jobs. We disagree, Mr. President. Yes, it can! In fact, Economist Dr. Bernard Anderson of the University of Pennsylvania said at yesterday's forum that when the private sector isn't meeting the demand for jobs, the government can and must.

Rosemary was the youngest of the seven ordinary people who travelled to Washington yesterday. Rosemary is the first member of her family to graduate from college, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Sales and Marketing from Tuskegee University in Alabama this past May. Despite this fantastic accomplishment, strong internships and community involvement while in school, she has been unable to find work. She finds herself competing not only with new graduates like herself, but with more experienced workers who have been laid off and are willing to work for less money than she can afford with the burden of student loans and aging parents she wants to support. She sees the Local Jobs for America Act as a bold solution for direct job creation for people in her situation who want to contribute to their communities.

The Act, introduced by Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) of the House Education and Labor Committee, will invest in talented people like Rosemary and 999,999 others by creating and preserving jobs in local communities immediately. But it doesn't stop with job creation.

Critical lifelines that are keeping families afloat like unemployment insurance and COBRA health insurance are at risk of expiring for millions of Americans. We need strong leadership to push through and extend these important benefits. In addition, extended FMAP relief for states will support access to Medicaid for families while providing critical fiscal relief to states. These provisions will put money into the economy to help boost demand for goods and services and help restore private sector job growth.

People like Nadina Patterson, who is an unemployed divorced mother of 2 and grandmother of 3, described her fear of losing unemployment insurance. In the 15 months she's been unemployed she has sent out countless resumes and cover letters with no luck. If she loses her benefits, she'll be forced to move in with her family whose own situation is not much better. She doesn't want to burden anyone. She just wants to work as she has done all her life. Nadina knows firsthand as a former case manager the emotional toll unemployment takes on families. These critical lifelines must be extended.

The powerful lobbies that run Washington face competition. The un- and underemployed workers are quickly becoming the largest lobby in America, and they want to see Presidential leadership on the economy. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows a 50-44 percent disapproval rating on how the President is handling the economy despite positive overall approval.

Continuing to slow walk the process of directly creating jobs for the millions of unemployed, willing workers will only further delay our economic recovery. One million people are waiting, and will show Congress and the President that it's time to stop posturing and solve our Main Street crisis. You can join them by going to

And for people like Nadina and Rosemary who played by the rules, worked hard, and are hungry and ready to get to work, the status quo is unacceptable. It's up to Democrats in Congress and President Obama to provide that solution and pass the Local Jobs for America Act now.