As most Americans know, our economy has experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Last Friday, President Obama traveled to North Carolina to visit Celgard, a factory in Charlotte to discuss jobs and the economy. The President's speech coincided with the Labor Department's release of the March report showing an increase of 162,000 jobs in the past month. Indeed, the President's speech and Department of Labor's report are encouraging signs. Could March mark the end of the economic madness that has plagued the U.S. workforce for nearly eighteen months?
Despite March's modest gains, Congress should come back from spring recess fired up and ready to focus on getting America working again. The country's unemployment rate remains high at 9.7 percent, and in communities of color the rate is slightly above 15% according to the 2010 Equality Index released by the National Urban League. Meanwhile, segments of America's urban and rural communities are still mired in economic inequalities some 42 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today young black or Latino men 18-30 years old have a 32% better chance of being incarcerated than gaining meaningful employment. With these staggering numbers we must ask ourselves as a nation, how do we ensure that 60 million unemployed and/or underemployed Americans are not permanently deprived of full participation in our evolving digitally enhanced economy? What innovative job creation measures can we deploy to get our economy back in shape? How do we avoid fostering an economic caste system that could potentially undermine our democracy?
The National Broadband Plan released last month provides a solid framework to insuring Internet access nationwide which is essential for economic prosperity today and in the future. It also provides a regulatory environment that is favorable to achieving this goal. Achieving universal broadband will cost money. In order to fund the build out necessary to offer broadband to those who need it most, private investment is absolutely essential and should be encouraged. I believe access to affordable broadband technology is a first step to creating high quality digital entry level jobs by re-educating both the unemployed and underemployed and thereby, resetting their employable skills in order to enhance their marketability. For example, global IT out-sourcing alone was estimated to be $295 billion in 2009 of which many of those jobs were performed abroad at the expense of working-class Americans.
The Digital Revolution will stimulate job growth across every socio-economic level in our society, as well as give the U.S. a competitive advantage in the global economy. Not since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century has our society had a unique window of opportunity of this magnitude in a peace-time era to create millions of new jobs. This cutting edge technology will drive the entrepreneurial spirit throughout this country, as well as our global economic security interests. A balanced regulatory framework must work hand-in-hand with massive private investment in order to create the economic environment to achieve the elements of the JET AGENDA - Jobs, Education and Technology. This Agenda will stimulate millions of new jobs and reverse the trend of economic inequality in America by using technology to reeducate America's workforce and reset their professional skills - anything short of this could potentially stifle the growth this economy desperately needs.
The JET AGENDA is clearly the logical pathway for our society to pursue and the engine to stimulate America's economic recovery.