Sunday May 5, 2013
Originally published in USA Today:
Austerity policy hurts families, harms economy.
To reduce the deficit, we need to stop doing so much deficit reduction.
The most urgent issue facing Americans is the jobs crisis — not the deficit. Investment in good jobs is the key to a better economy, not furloughs for teachers, nurses and firefighters or ending programs that help working families.
The numbers are shocking. More than 20 million people need full-time work. About 4.5 million Americans have been looking for work for six months or more, the highest long-term unemployment rate since World War II.
These numbers do not tell the human story. With each week of joblessness, the skills and confidence of unemployed workers decline, and their bills mount. Many Americans who have jobs cannot support their families. With millions looking for work, companies are reducing wages and benefits.
Austerity policy — massive cuts in the middle of a recovery — hurts American families and damages the national economy. When more people are out of work, fewer people are paying taxes, which results in less revenue. High unemployment means weak consumer demand, which hurts businesses.
Without jobs, more families need unemployment insurance and food assistance, but we are cutting these supports, too. And excessive cuts have a cascading effect on towns and states, as they get less help from the federal government when they need it most.
A recent report by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, found that we have lost 500,000 decent government jobs since the Great Recession. In the five prior recessions we invested in jobs, and in turn, promoted a faster, more durable economic recovery.
The Republicans' agenda on the deficit has made our economic recovery worse. They are cutting productive investments in infrastructure, housing and education. The "sequester" — Washington shorthand for devastating, across-the-board cuts — is predicted to cost more than 700,000 jobs this year alone. In my home state of Minnesota, 14,000 workers will lose the job training they need.
Every day, Americans hear that we should starve the economy in order to save it. But this is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. The idea that we have to choose between reducing the deficit and addressing the jobs crisis is a flawed argument, with devastating consequences for American families and our economic future. Fixing the jobs crisis is the best way to tackle the deficit.