Nonfarm employment grew by 431,000 last month. That's nice, but 411,000 of those new hires were temporary employees for the 2010 Census. But for that Census hiring, unemployment would have ticked all the way back up to 10 percent. Government is the only functioning sector of the economy.
We need our politicians to read the data and admit the obvious. Between the Census and the Recovery Act, government spending is the only thing keeping our economy above water. If we want to get better, we need a good strong Keynesian shot in the arm. We need our elected leaders to stand tall and admit, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, "I'm from the government and I'm already helping you."
Not sure what to do? Here's a tip. People need work and there's work to do. Put them together.
President Obama is proud of his proposed new 84 mile high speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa Bay, aiming for completion in four years. Meanwhile, China is building over 1000 miles of high speed track this year alone. There's plenty of work to do.
FDR put people to work to fight the depression. World War Two occasioned the greatest public mobilization of human resources in American history. What ails us today is not just failure of imagination, it's a failure to learn high school history. Fix the schools, build the bridges, lay the track. Make the parts in America. Put us to work! Every billion dollars spent on infrastructure is estimated to create 18,000 jobs.
It's obvious and it's politically popular, yet we can't take even small steps in the right direction. State and local governments are going in the wrong direction, cutting back services and laying off school teachers to balance their budgets. We need Uncle Sam to step in, but he's running scared. He worships at the altar of deficits not jobs.
Still not sure what to do? We can get more specific.
Rep. George Miller's (D-Calif.) modest Local Jobs for America Act hires teachers instead of laying them off. It's been languishing in committee for months.
Rep. Charlie Rangel's (D-NY) American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act would raise revenue by closing loopholes under which American companies avoid taxes by moving profits offshore and under which billionaire hedge fund managers pay taxes at lower rates than their secretaries (or their kids' schoolteachers). It can't even get a vote in the House because representatives figure it can't get past the Senate anyway.
The AFL-CIO has a five step jobs plans to put rebuild our economy and put people back to work. The problem isn't knowledge; it's will.
Now is the time. People need work, and there's work to be done. The question is whether our great democracy can once again rise to the challenge.
PS: We will discuss this and more next week at our America's Future Now conference e. Nancy Pelosi will talk about our government and Richard Trumka will tell us how to make it work for us.
This post originally appeared at the Campaign for America's Future.