The depth of the crisis we face is evident to all in the catastrophe of unemployment, increasing poverty and foreclosures that has gripped the United States. I am just back from a trip to Ohio and the stories I heard of families in Canton are heartbreaking –and totally unnecessary. We face a short term crisis which is mainly a jobs crisis not --as out-of-touch elites in the beltway claim a deficit crisis – and we can do something about it if we have the will to do so. We need to make investments in key sectors that will get the economy going and put people back to work. Critical investments in infrastructure, the green economy, care jobs to provide vital services to a growing cohort of elders and vital public services will meet the immediate crisis and lay the tracks for a sustainable long term recovery.
Let’s face it – our leaders in Washington are running headlong in the wrong direction. The word of the day around here is austerity and plans like the Ryan budget would actually result in the loss of millions more jobs. Prosperity economics challenges this conventional wisdom by arguing for the broad investment in people that will lead to the kind of sustainable economic growth for which every American yearns.
Our other essential challenge is to restore the connection between productivity growth and wages, to ensure that the workers who create the great wealth of our nation share in the fruits of their labor. The indispensible ingredients here are unions and collective bargaining. As community leaders, we recognize that the attack on unions throughout the country today is really an assault on all of us –and that there is no hope for restoring a middle class or a path to the middle class for those living in poverty with a shrinking number of workers in unions. We need fundamental reforms to enable the millions of workers who want and need a union to get one. Unions and the ability to bargain collectively are essential to reducing inequality and creating enough demand in the economy to reach full employment. There is no higher priority for getting our economy back on track than restoring the right of workers to bargain collectively through unions.
This agenda face obvious challenges. Most notably the elites who run our country but who are increasingly remote from the lives of everyday people are convinced that austerity is the medicine for what ails us, and they have launched a devastating attack on workers and the institutions that stand for them. Increasingly we see people around the country getting clearer and clearer that austerity is not medicine --it is poison that will kill the patient, and that what we need is a bold alternative that invests in our common future and ensures that workers and communities have a voice. Professor Hacker’s paper is a major contribution that we will use in church basements and community centers around the country to build the movement that will be required to change the out-of-touch debate here in Washington, D.C.
Click here to read the report, Prosperity Economics: Building An Economy for All