Inaction on the Job Front
Can we think about jobs for a minute? 15.1 million Americans are out of work, including 874,000 residents of New York State. New York City has an unemployment rate of 10.3 percent. Meanwhile people who have jobs are seeing them downgraded - wages cut, benefits trimmed, workplace perks eliminated. For millions of low-wage employees already exploited in jobs that illegally violated wage and safety protections, we can only imagine how much worse things are becoming.
No surprise that jobs and the economy top Americans' list of concerns. So why aren't policymakers at the state, local, and national levels taking more decisive action?
I attended a New York City mayoral debate last night in which issues of job creation and job quality astoundingly never came up. We heard a lot about water bills, but not a word about policies to help the one in ten New Yorkers out of a job. In a time of crunched budgets, we could start by making sure the money we're already spending on economic development doesn't get squandered.
In the U.S. Senate, we're finally seeing movement on health care reform, which feeds into the nation's employment woes in a variety of ways (for example when high health care costs harm the competitiveness of American business.) But that's no excuse for sluggishness on extending unemployment benefits to the hundreds of thousands of jobless workers set to lose them, a task the House recognized as urgent over a month ago.
That leaves New York State -- the last place I'd expect to find bold policy of any kind these days. Yet this week Governor Paterson signed a landmark Green Jobs law that will cut global warming emissions, save families money on their home heating and electric bills, and create an estimated 14,000 good jobs. I've been critical of Governor Paterson's record but this is exactly the kind of policy move we need in tough times. Still not enough... but it's a good start.