The conventional wisdom from cable news pundits is that this will be a difficult year for Congressional Democrats. Between website troubles, legislative roadblocks in the House of Representatives, and polls showing Americans' declining faith in government, it seems sensible to expect continued gridlock or conservative drift.
But there's a simple reason why the Democratic agenda has powerful momentum this year:
The Democratic agenda is all about jobs.
In poll after poll, Americans continue to cite unemployment as the number one issue facing the nation. This should be no surprise. There are still more than 20 million people looking for full-time work. There are upwards of 50 million -- including 13 million children -- living in poverty. For every single job opening, there are at least three applicants.
Our government has both an ethical obligation and an economic imperative to focus on job creation.
When people are trained, working, earning salaries, and contributing to the tax base, there are more customers for American goods and services, there's less crime, there's more government revenue and lower deficits. Most importantly, workers have greater bargaining power, and everyone's wages rise.
This is why the forthcoming Democratic Budget focuses on needed job-creating investments in infrastructure upgrades, early childhood education, workforce training programs, and scientific research.
This is why Democrats are committed to restoring emergency unemployment insurance and raising the minimum wage -- actions that would not only restore dignity to millions of people but also inject desperately needed consumer demand into the economy.
This is why Democrats are focused on passing immigration reform -- which would not only bring hard-working people out of the shadows but also boost economic growth by an estimated $1.5 trillion and create up to 900,000 jobs over time.
This is also why Democrats are fighting for comprehensive jobs legislation, including President Obama's American Jobs Act, Whip Steny Hoyer's "Make It in America Agenda," and HR 1000, The Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act -- which I have introduced with support from 57 cosponsors -- to ensure people are trained and able to perform desperately-needed work in areas including healthcare, road repair, energy efficiency, education, and neighborhood renovation.
The Republican agenda, in contrast, is a continuation of the failed experiment of economic austerity. Since winning the House in 2010, GOP leaders have refused to even allow a vote on jobs legislation -- opting instead to focus on dangerous environmental deregulation, healthcare repeals, and harsh budget cuts that ultimately make the economy weaker. The independent economic consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisers has estimated that all the fiscal brinkmanship and brazen budget cuts have cost the nation nearly two million jobs.
The failure of the GOP-led House of Representatives to focus on jobs is not just a political blunder. It's a dereliction of duty and has caused real human suffering.
Having a job is essential to having a home and having healthcare. It's essential for enjoying a life of basic stability and dignity. It's essential for sustaining a family. It's essential for enjoying freedom from anxiety and gaining the power to shape one's own destiny.
America urgently needs a jobs agenda.
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