Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently introduced the Local Jobs for America Act in the Senate, a piece of legislation that gives Americans exactly what they want: More jobs and the help they need to train for and secure long-term employment.
A companion bill introduced in the House by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) in March has more than 160 co-sponsors. Unfortunately there are members on both sides of the aisle who believe it won't play well with voters concerned that legislation of this kind will further balloon the deficit.
But a major new poll conducted by Lake Research Partners for my organization, the Center for Community Change, along with the Ms. Foundation for Women, finds that those beliefs may be off base. While most support decreased government spending in the long run, a majority of those surveyed do not see it as a top priority today. In fact, they are less concerned about the federal budget deficit than they are about rising health care costs, the lack of jobs with family-sustaining wages, and the affordability of every day expenses like food and gas. Three out of four people surveyed said they believe policies that would create more jobs with decent wages and benefits for low-income families are important to them personally. Even more people believe those policies would be good for the economy.
Our poll provides strong evidence that the public would support a boldly progressive agenda from the Obama Administration and Congress that would put people back to work and boost our economy. And it effectively undercuts the "everyone for themselves" individualism espoused by the Tea Party movement.
Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said they believed the government should play a greater role in creating jobs and training programs, helping to trim health care costs, and combating corporate greed. Such beliefs were particularly pronounced among those who have suffered most during the recession. For example, 66 percent of African American women and 68 percent of Latinas want the government to play a bigger role.
It is groups like these who stand to benefit most immediately from legislation like the Local Jobs for America Act. The bill would authorize $75 billion in temporary funds over the next two years to prevent planned job cuts and enable communities to hire back critical service workers who have lost their jobs due to tight budgets. It is estimated that the bill would create or save up to a million jobs quickly in both the public and private sectors and help restore access to vital services. The bill would also fund approximately 50,000 additional private sector on-the-job training positions to enable workers to acquire core job skills and help local businesses increase hiring. Finally, it would provide crucial funding in our communities to hire additional police and firefighters.
By putting people back to work, legislation of this kind strengthens our economy while also providing support for those in need. Although it will require an initial upfront investment, an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found that the total cost of the legislation would be offset by $39 billion since the bill would help keep taxpayers on payrolls and reduce spending on unemployment benefits and other safety-net programs.
Despite messages from the far right, most Americans do not think government should withdraw support for struggling communities. Even those with jobs recognize that they may be vulnerable and that their communities need help. Just under half of those surveyed in our poll said they are worried that they or someone in their household will be out of a job in the next 12 months, and more than half are worried that they or someone in their household will not be working enough hours to make ends meet.
With state budget cuts forcing slashes in services and jobs at an unprecedented rate, it's hardly surprising that many people feel deeply insecure about their long-term employment prospects. According to the Economic Policy Institute analysis, tight budgets as the result of the recession could cause local communities to lay off another 225,000 workers beginning this summer, threatening to undercut the recovery.
As far as most Americans are concerned, the so-called economic recovery has little to do
with the reality many of them are facing. Government leaders who think they are taking the politically smart path by withholding support for legislation that would help people obtain or maintain good jobs, should take a hard look at the challenging circumstances facing families and communities across our nation and pass the Local Jobs for America Act.
Text CHANGE to 69866 to join the call to pass the Local Jobs for America Act.