November 2010, Week 2


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Mon, 8 Nov 2010 22:05:28 -0500
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Obama Should Create Jobs by Executive Order

Monday 08 November 2010

by: Jeanne Mirer and Marjorie Cohn, t r u t h o u t |


photo (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t;
Adapted: Wa-J, General Wesc)

On May 6, 1935, with the country in the midst of the
Great Depression and with indirect efforts to create
jobs having not moved the needle of unemployment rates,
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order
7034 and appropriated $4.8 billion for the Works
Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA put millions of
Americans to work constructing buildings, painting
murals to decorate them and performing plays for
audiences that had never before seen a dramatic
production. In the process, many were saved from
poverty and starvation and the economy began to revive.

Although Congress, as part of the New Deal, had
appropriated money specifically for relief, FDR decided
to use the money for a direct jobs program by issuing a
presidential executive order. This executive order
described the agencies to be involved in the program,
its structure and procedure for application and
allocation of jobs.

The WPA was quickly implemented. By March 1936, 3.4
million people were employed and an average of 2.3
million people worked monthly until the program ended
in June 1943. During its existence, the WPA employed
more than 8,500,000 different persons on 1,410,000
individual projects and spent about $11 billion. The
average yearly salary was $1,100, a living wage at the
time. During its eight-year history, the WPA built
651,087 miles of highways, roads and streets. It
constructed, repaired or improved 124,031 bridges,
125,110 public buildings, 8,192 parks and 853 airport
landing fields.

Today, our infrastructure is crumbling and loss of
revenue is forcing many cities and states to cut basic
services. About 15 million people have become
unemployed since the crisis hit in late 2008; a million
and a half of them are construction workers. The need
for a direct jobs program is either as great, or even
greater, than during the Depression.

But, in light of the election results, is such a
program possible? Can the president directly create
jobs by executive order? The answer is a resounding
yes. Remember when the Emergency Economic Stabilization
Act of 2008, which created the $700 billion Troubled
Assets Relief Program (TARP) was passed, one of the
purposes was to preserve homeownership and promote jobs
and economic growth.

Much of the TARP money has been repaid and the
administration refers to the profit on the payments. If
one assumes an average cost of one job is $50,000, six
million jobs could be immediately created for $300
billion. Twelve million jobs could be created for $600
billion. Because this is already appropriated money,
Congressional Republicans could not block it.

This direct job creation would be bold. It would also
be highly stimulative. It would not add to the deficit
because it is already appropriated money. Furthermore,
one-third of it would come back immediately in taxes,
and more importantly, the growth in demand from this
number of added jobs would expand private sector job
growth and grow the overall economy.

This bold program would contrast markedly with prior
stimulus bills, which were indirect and whose effects
have been too slow to manifest themselves. The posture
of the Republicans during the last two years has been
to prevent the president and Congress from taking bold
steps to intervene in the economy to directly create
jobs. Then, they used the administration's failure to
take bold steps to create jobs to say the "stimulus did
not work." They turned the very TARP bailouts they
supported into a rallying cry against government
intervention in the economy to help people, and they
characterized as "socialism" any government
initiatives such as health care. They decried deficits
and opposed any sane tax policies to get the deficit
going in the other direction.

By keeping progress in job creation slow and blaming
the administration for the lack of jobs, the high
expectations for the Obama administration became
deflated. The loss of jobs exacerbated the mortgage
crisis and banks have been encouraged to foreclose
rather than restructure mortgages despite the opposite
being explicitly called for in the Emergency
Stabilization Act.

The people who voted for Obama in 2008 voted for the
promised hope and change. Many developed buyer's
remorse when what they got was a set of policies which
protected Wall Street at the expense of Main Street,
big business at the expense of workers and made
unnecessary compromises with the right. The so called
"enthusiasm gap" created by Republican obstruction and
administration timidity, produced such a deflation in
people's morale that it acted as an effective form of
voter suppression. The election results can be
explained in this fashion.

Some have said that it makes no sense that the voters
would go in a more rightward direction because the
Obama administration was not "left" enough. But the
fact is the Obama administration failed to deliver
change and also failed to make the case for progressive
policies. The election of Democratic incumbents meant
only more of the same. And only nine million of the 23
million young people who voted in 2008 came out in
2010. This undervote made the difference.

Abraham Lincoln once said: "You can fool some of the
people all of the time and all of the people some of
the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of
the time." What happened in this election was the
right wing was able to fool enough of the people enough
of the time to make independents join with rabid right
wingers, while at the same time suppressing the
progressive electorate.

This country has a lot to do to get its economic house
in order. It is heavily dependent on the financial
services industry, which only promotes speculation and
unregulated bubbles. It is largely controlled by the
defense industries, which have promoted two and
possibly more wars. It is beholden to the extractive
energy industries, whose owners are funding the Tea
Party, thus putting environmental amelioration on
indefinite hold. And it is more and more influenced by
the prison industrial complex, which promotes hostility
to immigrants and takes resources from education and
other vital areas. For the last 30 years, it has relied
on anti-union and anti-worker policies, which has
forced the hemorrhaging of high-paid manufacturing jobs
to low-cost countries and driven down wages for US
workers which can no longer be papered over with
unsustainable debt.

The president cannot solve all these problems
overnight, but with a stroke of a pen, he can use
already appropriated money to create millions of good,
green jobs and move down the road to recovery much
faster. Any opposition to this from the Republicans
will expose their hostility to anyone but the richest
members of society and give the progressive movement
ammunition to take the offensive.

Creative Commons License This work by Truthout is
licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. 


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