It's been two years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off a global financial meltdown. The big Wall Street banks were bailed out and are now making record profits and major corporations are sitting on $8 trillion, the biggest pile of cash reserves since 1963. For working families, the crisis did not start in 2008. They've been getting what Steven Greenhouse called "the Big Squeeze" for decades, as the income gap between the rich and the rest of us tripled. These families are continuing to bear the brunt of the economic crisis.
Today, more than 15 million Americans are out of work and there are nearly five job seekers for every job opening. Long-term unemployment is at record levels and the 'jobs deficit' is longer and deeper than any post-war recession. If job growth for the next decade matches 2000-2010, the official unemployment rate will hit 13 percent by 2020 - and that doesn't even factor in that workers are earning less, losing benefits and working longer and harder. As we all know it has been worse here in Central Oregon with unemployment rates hovering well into the teens since the beginning of 2009.
Conservative activists and some members of Congress, especially in the Senate, have been grandstanding on fear of budget deficits to block a recovery for the rest of us. Yet these same people want to maintain tax breaks for the rich and stop taxes on the Wall street banks that created this mess in the first place. Polls clearly show that most Americans consider the jobs emergency a higher priority than the budget deficit - and after all, the best way to address budget deficits is to put people back to work, paying their share of taxes (and making Wall Street pay its fair share as well).
It's time for ordinary Americans to make our voices heard. It's time to declare a state of economic emergency.
Unemployed worker councils are forming across the country, from Bangor, Maine, to Chicago, Illinois, to Portland, Oregon, and demanding jobs with justice. Jobless does not mean voiceless or powerless.
On September 15, Jobs with Justice, a national network of more than 40 local coalitions of community, faith, labor and student organizations are taking action, calling Full and Fair Employment and demanding that elected officials in the Senate stop blocking reforms that would help fill the jobs gap and put America back to work.
There are several actions Congress could take as emergency first steps toward Full and Fair Employment, such as the Local Jobs for America Act, which would save or create one million good jobs, providing needed public services in communities that need it most. The Local Jobs for America Act would provide funds for community services, teachers, firefighters and other community needs right here in Central Oregon. A small Financial Speculation Tax (FAT) would reduce the most harmful financial speculation games of Wall street and generate $200-$500 billion per year for jobs programs.
Without jobs, there is on recovery. Without good jobs, there is no justice.