07/23/2012 04:02 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2012

Declaring War On Unemployment

There is an enemy lurking in our midst and we need to squarely and definitively defeat it: joblessness.

Our country's ills are largely due to the ever-widening economic problems that are touching almost every family in America.

If you or a family member are not unemployed or underemployed, you surely know someone close to you who is or you fear for your job security, because we are all just one layoff from joining the ranks of the unemployed.

Each month, when the jobs report is released, politicians and economists spin what is generally always bad news: many millions of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, don't have work and each week their prospects grow dimmer.

Let's declare war on unemployment. Or better yet, let's start a Manhattan Project-like summit where the best minds in America -- and New York -- offer ideas on reducing the unemployment rate to below 5 percent by the end of 2014. Our goal should be full employment by 2020, but first we have to cut joblessness in half.

In another generation, when our country hurtled towards an economic cliff, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt started the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and put Americans to work in building the infrastructure of our country. FDR thought big, and people then -- and now -- benefitted from an activist government that helped turn around an economic crisis.

We now face an era of crumbling bridges, roads desperately in need of repair and affordable housing that is in short supply -- all projects that could help get Americans back to work, growing our tax base and rebuilding our country at the same time.

We can reallocate resources from wasteful government spending to job-producing programs that will give the unemployed a hand up rather than a handout.

The old saying: give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime has never been more appropos.

We need to help Americans get productive jobs NOW to lift people from poverty, allow families to make ends meet, reduce government spending on entitlement programs and grow our country's tax base.

Let's convene that summit on The American Jobs Project as soon as possible. This is not a Democratic or Republican problem, it's an American problem.

We've faced down great challenges before. Now's the time to show that America can do what it takes to solve the biggest issue in our generation.

President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo: are you listening?

Tom Allon is a 2013 liberal and Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City.

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