Why It's Time to Declare War on Unemployment

09/14/2011 01:45 pm ET | Updated Nov 14, 2011

‪As economic first-responders, the National Urban League has witnessed the debilitating impact of the nation's current employment crisis firsthand. Our 98 local affiliates, which serve 300 communities, are working to help families cope with loss of jobs, mass foreclosures and the stinging pain of seeing so much they have worked to build evaporate and erode.

That's why we in the Urban League Movement understand the urgency behind President Obama's jobs plan, and why the nation must unite behind the singular goal of putting urban America back to work.

I was enormously encouraged to see that President Obama's job creation plan includes three components of the National Urban League's 12-Point Jobs Plan: direct job creation, an infrastructure bank, and a summer jobs program, all of which I advocated during meetings in the Oval Office in February of 2010 and July of this year.

However, I do encourage some modifications to the president's version of these proposals.

While it's important to recognize the limitations imposed on the President by an obstructionist Congress, the unemployment crisis is now so dire that he needs to pull out every stop. We need to fight for America's 14 million unemployed with every weapon at our disposal.

An infrastructure bank has enormous potential to stimulate the economy and put Americans to work, but the program needs to include more than roads and bridges. We also need to build schools, community centers, libraries, and -- especially relevant during this time of harsh weather -- storm sewers and flood control projects.

The President proposed direct funding to employ teachers and first responders, but the plan should be expanded to include other state and municipal workers, and funding should be provided directly to municipalities rather than through the states.

We should take a lesson from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and distribute resources directly to the communities that are hardest-hit by unemployment.

Similarly, funding for summer jobs should be directed to the national community-based organizations that have a proven track record on job training.

I look forward to working with the White House and Congress to insure that this package provides the type of targeted solution that ensures that urban communities are not left by the wayside for a second time.

The National Urban League and our affiliates around the nation are in the trenches doing the incredibly important work as economic first responders, helping families cope with loss of jobs, mass foreclosures and the stinging pain of seeing so much they have worked to build evaporate and erode.

Just as Lyndon Johnson would declare War on Poverty, just as Johnson's successor, Richard Nixon, would declare War on Drugs, just as George W. Bush would declare War on Terrorism, it is time for this country to commit itself to the only war that matters to the 14 million Americans out of work, the War on Unemployment.