by Kayla Starr, CODEPINK Local Coordinator North Bay (Marin & Sonoma Counties), California
Two years after the economic crisis began, 25 million Americans are jobless or under-employed. Unknown numbers have stopped looking for jobs and are not accounted for in this number. And the numbers are growing, not shrinking.
This is a negative multiplier on the economy. If families can't pay their bills, their mortgages become delinquent; mortgage delinquencies keep rising), their credit card bills go unpaid (we're seeing a notable rise in credit card defaults), and they can't afford to buy anything other than necessities (hence auto sales have plummeted, new homes sales are down, and retail sales are in the pits).
As a result, more and more businesses lay off workers (or refrain from adding them) because they can't sell the goods and services they produce.
The last time we saw anything on this scale was in the 1930s. The last time we did anything about this on the scale necessary to reverse the trend was in the 1930s and 1940s.
It is not that America is out of ideas. We know what to do. We need massive public spending on jobs (infrastructure, schools, parks, a new WPA) along with measures to widen the circle of prosperity so more Americans can share in the gains of growth (exempting the first $20K of income from payroll taxes and applying the payroll tax to incomes over $250K, for example).
What would happen if we cut the military budget by half, or even one-third? The US would still be spending more that all other nations combined on "defense".
And this money could be used to create projects and jobs in public transportation. health care, renewable energy, public education, refinancing homes facing foreclosure, job training programs, construction, forest restoration and local farming. (Oh, and some side effects would include less killing of innocents in our illegal and brutal occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a reduction of greenhouse gasses spewed into the atmosphere!)
This can be done. We must demand this of our legislators loudly and in massive numbers now.