Before President Obama’s employment speech to the joint session of Congress this evening, those of us concerned with economic and social inclusion had high hopes and fairly moderate expectations. In what was possibly THE speech of the Obama presidency, we needed guts. We needed speed. We needed intelligent, proven ideas that could be delivered immediately and make a serious dent in the US unemployment rate.
We’re living in a country of proven downward mobility, where 1 in 3 Americans who grew up middle-class have slipped down the income ladder as adults. Where the percentage of working-age poor is now at the highest level since the launch of the 1964 War on Poverty. Where the “job creating” corporate sector has reported its highest profits on record. These are indisputable facts, whether you’re Republican, Democrat, or just plain peeved.
We needed a “nothing left to lose” bullet-train charge at an economy with 14 million officially unemployed and double that number underemployed or simply without work. We needed a plan for groups the recession has affected disproportionately: African Americans, working-age men, young people, female single parents and returning veterans. We needed a fiercely unapologetic pledge that employment isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a patriotic one.
On top of this, and with the few months of governing ability the President has left before the next election, he needed to re-set the relationship between people and their government.
President Obama delivered, with a robust statement on the role of government and the American Jobs Act:
- a focus on construction workers, teachers, first responders, returning veterans, and the long-term unemployed,
- a new tax credit for companies who hire new workers, with an emphasis on small business hires,
- a tax credit to companies who hire returning veterans,
- a tax credit for those who have spent more that 6 months looking for work and take up temporary employment,
- expansion of Unemployment Insurance for 1 year for those experiencing prolonged hardship, and
- modernization of 30,000 public schools, roads, bridges, transportation systems (contracts will be designed to attract private investment according to how badly the project is needed, and what it will actually do for the economy).
At InclusionUS, we’re working on projects that, in the President’s words, “meet the needs of our people and our communities:”
- our work on veterans with the UK-US Service Personnel Task Force,
- our cost-saving plans for local programs getting people back to work,
- our labor market and social inclusion analysis for the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the City of Bryan, Texas,
- our advisory work on exclusion, employment and mental health for the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,
- our work with the National Association of Workforce Boards on international workforce development responses to the global recession,
- our work to unleash the power of philanthropy, and
- our work on ex-offenders with the US Department of Justice.
We support the American Jobs Act and we promote economic and social inclusion in the labor market. Let us know how we can help.