As Long as They’re Calling You a Socialist, Go All the Way
What does “Labor Day” mean to the 15+ million unemployed?
Below is our Happy Labor Day card to President Obama in advance of his address to the nation  Thursday, Sept. 8, about proposals for alleviating the nation’s chronic unemployment crisis. The jobless rate is stuck at 9.1 percent, but it’s really over 16% counting the under-employed who find only part-time work or those who have given up looking. The unemployment rate is near 17%  for African Americans and 18% among Americans under 24.
Barack Obama has been in office for 2 1/2 years. Republicans in Congress have blocked every effort to revive the economy, and anything that has passed they insist has failed (though they secretly like  the stimulus). They figure  more jobless = fewer votes for Obama and Democrats. Thus far, Obama has sought to “find common ground” with a party that blocks him at every turn. No matter what he proposes on Thursday, they will say America cannot afford it, that government is the problem, not the solution, and that only reducing “job-killing ” regulations and taxes will kick-start job growth. Eight years of George W. Bush disproved that theory. Obama and Democrats—and we ordinary citizens who want the stalemate to end—must affirm that government can and must help create jobs because no one else will. U.S. corporations, enjoying record profits, are sitting on some $2 trillion in capital, reluctant to hire because of depressed consumer demand. Rational behavior.
We believe that in addition to a big, bold, WPA -style jobs program described below, the government should also extend federal unemployment benefits and the temporary payroll tax cut for employees beyond the end of 2011. Also, the highway trust fund should be reauthorized before it ends Sept. 30: that could prevent furloughs of current workers and create up to 120,000 jobs a year through 2014. See other proposals here  and here . Some say the U.S. cannot “afford” government action. We say the U.S.—and the world—cannot afford our inaction.
The letter to the president follows after the jump.
Happy Labor Day, Mr. President
Franklin Roosevelt didn’t wait for Congress. He established the CCC and the WPA by executive order.
September 4, 2011
Dear President Obama:
We implore you to Go Big with a major 10-year jobs plan focusing on infrastructure and environmental restoration, shoring up the levees around New Orleans, Sacramento, and along the Mississippi, and seismic retrofitting of nuclear plants. Hire new FEMA workers and national park employees. Revive the Civilian Conservation Corps . Pump more money into AmeriCorps . Be specific—and don’t leave the details to Congress. Use executive orders wherever possible. If tax rates were fair, this wealthy nation could afford it.
Go Big: Inspire and energize the public with a bold 10-year plan along the lines of FDR’s WPA and CCC + JFK’s Putting a Man on the Moon dream that will inspire the public to press Congress to support the plan. Do not waste time with half-measures in hopes of gaining a few Republican votes. There aren’t any.
Your reelection would be less in doubt if you gave America’s 15+ million unemployed and the nation’s crumbling infrastructure a comprehensive WPA-style jobs program at least 10 times as aggressive as the ARRA stimulus : public works, transportation (not just high-speed rail), public housing, schools, hospitals, and CCC-style environmental conservation. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t wait for Congress: he established the CCC  and the WPA  by executive order. You could do the same. What are you waiting for? What ever happened to “the fierce urgency of now”?
Change the conversation. Show America what you stand for. Use your fine voice to talk about the good that government can do . Explain why the private sector can’t / won’t lead the way. If you Go Big and Strong, then progressives like us (who volunteered for your campaign) will be inspired to help you push for the plan. But if you start out with weak tea aimed at not offending the likes of Kent Conrad and then water it down further, as you usually do, then we may have to stay home and do our hair.
Mr. President, you’re going to have to earn your reelection. So far we don’t see much reason to vote for you, except to prevent a takeover by the Republicans. If you don’t fight as if nothing matters more than putting America back to work, we can’t see a second term.
Please, please do something to make us believe in you—in America—once again.
Yours, in hope,
President’s Labor Day Address Previews Thursday’s Jobs Speech
See President Obama’s defense of workers—this is something we haven’t heard him say all year—in his Labor Day address to a friendly, fired-up labor crowd in Detroit (transcript here ). As usual, we like the words. What we need—what the nation needs—is “action, and action now ” and “bold, persistent experimentation .”
“Now, let me say a word about labor in particular. . . . I know it’s not easy when there’s some folks who have their sights trained on you. After all that unions have done to build and protect the middle class, you’ve got people trying to claim that you’re responsible for the problems middle-class folks are facing. You’ve got Republicans saying you’re the ones exploiting working families. Imagine that. . . .
“Now, the fact is, our economy is stronger when workers are getting paid good wages and good benefits. . . . Our economy is stronger when we’ve got broad-based growth and broad-based prosperity. That’s what unions have always been about—shared prosperity.”