Transcripts: A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency
Download transcripts from each of our panels at the A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency: Setting the Political Agenda for 2014 and 2016 conference.
Click here for summaries of all the panels.
Keynote Address by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) Download
Keynote Address by Alan Blinder, Princeton University Download
Panel: Getting to Full Employment Download
Panel: The Many Roles of Government in Job Creation Download
Panel: Wall Street: Job Loss or Job Creation Download
Panel: Paving the Way for Better Jobs Download
Panel: Is Education the Answer? Download
Panel: Good Jobs in Practice Download
Keynote Address by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) Download
Panel: Creating Momentum for More Good Jobs Download
FELICIA WONG: Good morning again. My name is Felicia Wong, and I’m President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute. It is my genuine pleasure to welcome you all and to thank you for joining this day-long conference on A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency: Setting the Political Agenda for 2014 and 2016. So as I said it’s my job to start us off and to say something about both the Roosevelt Institute and the work we do, as well as our Rediscovering Government initiative. But even before I do that, I’m going to say something about why all of this matters to me.
When Jeff and I started this conversation about work that the Roosevelt Institute could do about government, I knew it was very meaningful. So my parents grew up in the America that the Roosevelts built. The greatest legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt is the modern state, a state that works. And at the Roosevelt institute today, we are driving forward in that spirit and in that tradition. We’re a progressive ideas and leadership organization that works to build a New Deal for the 21st century.
JEFF MADRICK: Back to jobs. Not an emergency? Unemployment is almost the least of it. The employment-to-population ratio has declined radically, maybe the single most important number. But look at youth. The employment-to-population ratio of teenagers and young adults has collapsed in America. Look at long-term unemployment. And now we have new research that shows if you are long-term unemployed, unemployed for more than six months, it’s very hard to find a job because employers are not hiring those people. They are – the terminology now – “scarred.” This all comes after a long period of poor performance in the job market. It’s not only that we have too few jobs. We don’t have good jobs. Some of our participants have been leaders in analyzing and clarifying how bad the jobs have been in terms of wages and benefits in the recent economic recovery. The numbers are stunning. We’ll hear about that today.
As I say, all this follows, a period of 30 years of relatively stagnating wages except during the Clinton boom in the late 1990s, and that’s slightly suspicious because some of it was based on the wealth effect of the stock market. 30 years of stagnating wages for men. Wages for women rose, but by historical standards they didn’t rise very rapidly. And today, median household income is no higher than it was in 1999.
The last two economic recoveries were also disappointing in terms of jobs. This is not business as usual. This is a very, very bad job market, and we don’t fully understand it, which is why we have seven panels and 28 or 30 panelists to discuss many sides of this issue. We hope to learn a lot today. I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe we need a full-court press now. We have to change the conversation, as one of my colleagues says, from deficits to jobs. Jobs should be the first word out of every policymaker’s mouth in America, and I wish out of the media.
SENATOR TOM HARKIN: Without action also, our nation will continue to grow more and more unequal as wealth becomes more and more concentrated in the hands of a few. So I guess you’re here today to explore ways of addressing this issue and what the political agenda might be to address it. Now before I throw some ideas out there, I want to talk briefly about how many in Washington have framed these issues as false choices. Too often we hear that we have to choose between policies that will return to full employment and policies that will reduce the deficit. We’re told by groups backed by millions of dollars from the wealthiest Americans that we can do one or the other, but we can’t do both. And even more, they try to put progressives like us in a box. They say we don’t care about deficits or debt. This means that our economic policy agenda is really not very serious.
Of course these assertions are nonsense, and we believe that in this economic climate, smart policies designed to boost employment will also act to reduce deficits. Conversely, we know that right now misguided policies ostensibly designed to reduce the deficits will actually make it worse by driving up unemployment and making the deficits even worse. Now, do we have some proof of that? Yes. Look no further than what they’ve tried to do in Europe with their austerity policies.
My counsel today is that you and I need to seize every opportunity to challenge this false choice between reducing unemployment and reducing deficits. Unlike our Republican friends, we liberals, we progressives, have a serious policy agenda that aims to do both. And even more unlike the Republicans, we have a track record of success. We’ve done it. When we had the majorities in the House and the Senate in 2009 and 2010, we took bold steps to address the jobs crisis and our long-term debt and deficit. We made important headway. You know in the first months of the Obama administration, we passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Again, without adding to the long-term deficits, this legislation helped end the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, put millions of Americans back to work.
ALAN BLINDER: We know what full employment looks like, feels like. It is not an impossible dream, and that’s why I’m emphasizing, as I will now, the cyclical aspects. Mindful that this is not permanent. Cyclical fixes like fiscal stimulus do not make permanent changes in, say, the functioning of the labor market.
Very briefly, the way to create jobs without spending a budgetary nickel is monetary policy. But – what’s that line from the song? It’s gone as far as they can go. The Federal Reserve has gone almost as far as they can go. That’s why they’re now talking about fiscal policy. They’re looking there at the amount of weaponry they have left compared to what the fiscal authorities have left and saying, why aren’t you guys doing more about this because we can’t do very much more.
The new jobs tax credit has been a source of tremendous frustration to me. Here’s a program which is a business tax cut. When you ask Republicans what to do about job creation, they usually say cut business taxes in some way or another. Very often it’s the corporate income tax. Here’s a business tax cut directly aimed at raising employment. You might think you could get bipartisan support for something like this. It is an efficient way to create jobs. This one costs about a third of what the stimulus costs per job. Three times as efficient at creating jobs, and it cuts business tax, and yet we get no support from the other side of the aisle on this.
MAYA WILEY: I’m actually going to read a message that we’re currently testing on this very subject. It’s going to be a truncated version and not quite as entertaining because it won’t have the visuals, but it goes something like this. Hardworking Americans have been making this country a great place to live. Doctors and nurses make us healthy. Teachers make our kids smart. Construction workers build our homes. Firefighters keep us safe. We live in tough times though today, and in the past, to make life better and make our economy work, we invested, our leaders invested in schools and universities. We invested in buses and subways and highways. We invested in the retirement and health care for our parents and grandparents.
Now, more than ever, we need to renew these investments. Our leaders are currently slashing these programs. So for Americans who are playing by the rules, making real contributions, we’re losing our jobs and homes. That pain doesn’t come in different colors. It feels the same whether you’re white, whether you’re black, whether you’re Latino or Asian. It feels the same whether you’re a man or a woman.
It goes on, and then we say, we need to demand that our leaders continue to make the investments in programs that work, and then we go through a list of programs, depending on which campaign we’re supporting. I will tell you one thing about that message testing because we’ve been focus grouping it, and we did an internet test of a national panel of a 1000 likely voters, but we also did focus grouping of white men, working class white men in Michigan, and we just completed one round in California. And the fascinating thing about that is what we have found is they start talking positively about government, and they actually point to pictures of people of color and say, that’s just like me.
SARAH RASKIN: But then there's another feature, which I know is part of the focus of the conference here today, and that really has to do with the quality of the jobs. The quality of the jobs available deserves attention, and I’m going to focus the remainder of my time on questions of quality.
I’ve got to tell you, I became interested in this question of quality somewhat by accident. I did something atypical one day. I decided on the way into work I would stop at a jobs fair. There was one at a local community college close to my home, and I thought, instead of pounding through all this heavy data that we typically look at the Board of Governors, let me just go into the job fair and see what's going on.
It turned out to be a really interesting morning, I have to say. First of all, the jobs that were offered – I should preface this by saying, purely anecdotal here, this is not something that is going to count as hard science or passes much muster in terms of statistical significance, but it was quite interesting to me. So I went in, and the kind of jobs that I saw that were being offered surprised me.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: So we continue to make progress, and I want to talk a little bit about this year’s Back to Work Budget that was offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I worked closely with Keith Ellison, Raúl Grijalva, the co-chairs, and we were given policy guidance, again, by so many of you. We crafted our budget following a number of principles, but one was that we believe that working families and the poor and the disabled and seniors absolutely did not create the federal budget deficit. And we believe that working families and the poor and disabled and seniors, therefore, should not bear the burden of reducing it, to the extent that reducing it is our number one issue, which we don’t really agree with.
We have two unpaid-for wars, unpaid-for tax breaks that benefited – well, you know all that. And then of course the Great Recession that was caused by the Wall Street excesses and deregulation. Those are the culprits. Paul Ryan and the fix-the-debt crowd tried to convince America that government spending was the culprit, and this as much an ideological agenda as it is an economic theory, but we know that they’re wrong.
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