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Amy Traub

Why Hold a Jobs Summit When Things Are Going So Well?

The Manhattan Institute's Steve Malanga thinks our country is "satisfied and bountiful" right now. Forget about the millions of uninsured, unemployed, and even underfed Americans. According to Malanga, the more significant fact is that most citizens have color televisions and DVD players. Plus, most Americans liked their homes in 2005 - which is great news until you consider that millions have lost them, or risk losing them, to foreclosure in the years since.

Outside the Manhattan Institute's halls, most of us recognize that the economic pain of these hard times is widespread and will have lasting consequences. There's no mistaking the urgency of the jobs summit President Obama will hold today, collecting ideas from business, labor, community leaders, and economists. Even more urgent: actually taking action to jumpstart the creation of solid middle-class jobs. The stimulus, watered-down and politically compromised as it was, was critical in stopping the nation's economic free fall. But we need more, fast.

Among the best ideas the President will hear tomorrow is the five-point American Jobs Plan from the Economic Policy Institute. They'll tell the President we need to strengthen the safety net, extending unemployment benefits, expanding health care subsidies for people out of work, and increasing food stamp benefits. They'll inform him of the painful service cuts and layoffs in store if we don't extend budget relief to ailing state and (crucially) local governments. They'll suggest investments in transportation and education; a job creation tax credit, and most directly, the creation of a million public service jobs doing things like staffing emergency food programs and cleaning up neighborhoods blighted by foreclosure. We could pay for it all with a small tax on financial transactions.

The President will undoubtedly hear numerous proposals today that are less audacious and wide scale than EPI's. As he listens, he should consider how many of them come from individuals who, like Steve Malanga, don't fully realize the extent of hardship facing the American people.

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Posted at 7:54 AM, Dec 03, 2009 in Economic Stimulus | Economy | Employment | Stimulus
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