Recently, officials announced California's unemployment rate has risen to 11 percent. More than two million Californians remain unemployed. Income inequality continues to increase throughout the country and we are watching the middle class shrink before our eyes. For many of us, the American dream is slowly slipping away and we worry our children may end up worse off than ourselves.
We need to make the American dream a reality again by restoring the high-wage jobs that are the foundation of a sustainable economic recovery. Jobs that allow parents to send their kids to college and provide a secure retirement. Jobs that will come from a revitalized American manufacturing economy.
Since 2000, America has lost nearly one-third of its manufacturing jobs -- a loss directly related to our shrinking middle class. But this is only part of a larger trend. In 1970, manufacturing jobs represented 27 percent of America's workforce. Today they represent only 10 percent.
Manufacturing is one of the few sources of steady and secure jobs for those who do not graduate from four-year colleges. A fair and just economy means creating opportunity for everyone, not only those with college degrees or, increasingly, advanced degrees. Spurring manufacturing is one of the ways we can reverse the rapidly growing equality gap in our country that has seen the rich get dramatically richer and virtually everyone else fall behind.
The average wage for manufacturing work is 20 percent higher than the national average, and beyond this, each manufacturing job creates up to four downstream jobs. And for every dollar spent in the manufacturing sector creates $1.43 in other sectors. These are the kind of high-wage jobs that are the foundation of a sustainable economic recovery and will revive Main Streets up and down my beautiful district and throughout America.
While the American economy is tough, there is hope, as indicated by the slow but steady decline in the unemployment rates in California. There are also positive indicators that the manufacturing sector is slowly coming back to life.
The significant upside to bringing these jobs home can be calculated. By returning manufacturing employment rates to the level of the late 1970s we would create 12 million new jobs, with an additional 30 million jobs just in support of this expanded high-value manufacturing sector.
We've all heard the politicians talking about creating jobs and stimulating the economy -- but there's a problem. Most of them do not have experience in the fundamentals of creating high-wage jobs and restoring economic balance. Many of them are beholden to the corporate interests that fund their campaigns, and others have spent their careers in political office - a noble calling -- but one that often focuses on quick fixes and sound bites over the economic fundamentals necessary to restore the middle class and create economic fairness in the long term.
That's what got me interested in serving in Congress. For years, I thought
I could help the most people by being directly involved in the economy -- creating new jobs, starting companies, building new technologies and starting education institutions like the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at UC Berkeley. But right now, we need people in Washington with real-world experience.
I want to bring my over 20 years of experience creating jobs and helping American manufacturers succeed, and my experience as an educator working to promote innovation and technology to Congress. That's why I've proposed a detailed plan designed to restore the manufacturing jobs that sustain the middle class called "Making More in America." It lays out seven major priorities to get us there:
1. Creating conditions for small businesses to thrive
2. Promoting insourcing and local, niche manufacturing
3. Making our own energy again
4. Retooling our workforce for the 21st century
5. Growing our lead in science and technology
6. Modernizing our infrastructure and equipping the workforce with working infrastructure
7. Middle-class buying power, accelerating the demand for "made in America"
We need more than promises -- we need a robust plan to rebuild the middle class, starting with the jobs that sustain the middle class.
Stacey Lawson is a Congressional candidate in California's newly drawn 2nd district. She is an educator and small business owner living in San Rafael, CA. To learn more visit www.StaceyLawson.com.