The US economy remains weak at best. The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that job growth in August was at zero. And this while a number of US corporations reported record revenues and profits during the second quarter. It leaves us wondering, where are the jobs? We’ve been told countless times that we need to cut taxes, further, to improve the economy and get people back to work. The reality is tax cuts will have little if any impact on real job growth. And tax cuts fly in the face of all those calling for the US to cut deficit spending and reduce the national debt. Now is the time to invest in the American worker. We need bold plans to invest in our future and support young workers who are disproportionately affected by the current economic crisis. Below we highlight key areas we hope the President addresses in his speech Thursday night.
Unemployment disproportionately affects young Americans. Current data shows that nearly 18.1% of Americans age of 16 to 24 are unemployed. A rate double that of the national average (9.1%). It should also be noted that a disproportionate number of black youth, 31% in this age bracket are unemployed compared to 15.9% of whites.
YDM supports an extension of unemployment benefits until national unemployment levels drop below 7 percent. Temporary extensions only serve to “kick the can” and leave families uncertain of the future. We must not turn our back on American families in their time of need.
Second, we support funding for youth summer jobs programs. Youth jobs programs provide young people with an opportunity to earn money, build character, and gain self-esteem and self-worth. Last year, Senator Kerry proposed an amendment that would have provided summer jobs for seven thousand youth in Massachusetts. Unfortunately Senator Scott Brown voted against the amendment.
Student Loan Debt
Two-thirds of college students incur student-loan debt while at a 4-year college. This should come as no surprise. A recent report on CNN, found that tuition at four year colleges has nearly doubled in the past two decades. While median income remained stagnant during the same time period. Federal aid has failed to keep up with rising costs. This leaves families and young people relying more on student loans to help them afford college. Leaving them with an average student loan debt of nearly $25,000.
YDM supports an increase in funding for Pell Grants to reduce the need for loans. We also support protecting tax breaks for student loan interest. Both strategies will help reduce the financial burden of tuition on working families.
Investing in Higher Education
To be a competitive in the 21st century, it is imperative the US invest in education. This includes providing low interest student loans and expanding financial aid through programs like the Pell Grant. In June, President Obama announced a major initiative “Skills for America’s Future”. The purpose is to bring together industry and community colleges to develop a better trained and more competitive work force with a target for training 500,000 workers. However, a recent report by The Project on Student Loan Debt found that nearly 1 million Americans attending community college in 31 states do not have access to Federal student loans. To deal with this unfortunate situation students are forced to borrow from high interest private loan companies and credit cards or work longer hours, take fewer classes, or drop out all together. No matter which solution students choose without low interest loans from the Federal government we are stacking the odds against their future academic success.
YDM supports a mandate that community colleges in all 50 states provide students at 2 and 4 year colleges access to low interest federal student loans.
Invest in infrastructure
Across the US, infrastructure in the form of road and bridge and water and sewer lines are dated and in need of serious repair and replacement. We in Massachusetts know firsthand what happens when you do not properly invest in infrastructure.
Most everyone in the Greater Boston area remembers the large holes that opened up on I-93 last August. Investments in our local infrastructure led to programs like the Fast 14 project. A historic and successful bridge replacement program that replaced 14 bridge on I-93 in Medford. A project that would normally take years was completed in one summer.
YDM supports a clean extension of the transportation bill. This bill represents thousands of jobs right now. Without it, Massachusetts is estimated to lose more than fourteen thousand jobs. These initiatives will provide thousands of needs jobs across the country. And will support our economic prosperity for decades to come.
Invest in energy
Reports indicate that our energy infrastructure is vulnerable and in need of updating. Any jobs bill should include investments in our energy infrastructure (The grid) in the name of national security. But we shouldn’t stop there. Every year we spend billions on carbon based energy. If we are serious about national security then we must continue to invest aggressively in alternative forms of energy like wind and solar. It will decrease US dollars going overseas, reduce carbon emissions, and put more money back in tax payers’ pockets.
YDM supports investments in updating our energy infrastructure and providing funding for research in renewable energies so that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and other carbon based energies.
Extend the payroll tax break
Most workers pay a 6.2% tax to help fund Social Security. This tax is matched by their employers, for a total contribution of 12.4%. As part of the stimulus package, President Obama reduced the workers contribution to 4.2% for one year. This temporary tax break provides the average family with another $1,000 to spend. This tax relief is set to expire on January 1st. President Obama would like to extend this tax break for one more year, while Republicans who are normally for tax breaks oppose the initiative. And yes you are right this is the same party who twice supported the Bush tax cuts.
YDM supports an extension of the payroll tax break so that families in Massachusetts can use the extra money to support themselves in their time of need.
You’ll have an opportunity to hear the President speak about his plan on Thursday night. So set your alarms for 8PM on Thursday September 8th and follow along with us on Facebook and twitter. Use the hashtag #YouthJobs!
John H Kleschinsky
Vice-chair of Programming & Policy