Getting help for jobless is a priority

Getting help for jobless is a priority


Weekends are for kicking back and relaxing, but for millions of Americans — including many of our neighbors here on the Central Coast — this is a good day to scour the Times’ classified pages and the Internet, searching for a job.

The national unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent, the worst in several decades. Local figures are about the same, with pockets of relative prosperity, job-wise, and other areas where the jobless rate is much higher.

The Obama administration is, finally, turning its attention to the unemployment problem. The president convened a jobs summit last a few days ago, and although the discussion was in broad-stroke, policy terms, the message and the mission seem abundantly clear — get Americans back to work.

We like one of Obama’s visions for jump-starting the job market, and it is drawn from another of this nation’s near-catastrophic economic upheavals, three-quarters of a century ago.

In a speech this week, Obama outlined a plan to help small businesses add new employees, which would, of necessity, have to provoke business growth. He also zeroed in on the need to begin rebuilding America’s aging infrastructure, perhaps beginning with fixing the nation’s roads, which are increasingly falling into potholed disarray.

There are other facets of the administration’s attack strategy on unemployment, but helping reinvigorate small businesses and fixing roads alone have the potential to help fix what’s broken in the job market.

Now, filling potholes may not be the dream of every out-of-work engineer, but it certainly beats reading the employment want ads until you fall asleep at night, a sleep that is troubled by the loss of income from being unemployed, and the tributary stress of facing mortgage and car payments that can’t be paid.

For every one job available, there are six Americans looking. One could be inclined to say things couldn’t get any worse, but of course, things could get worse.

And in that context, it is the Obama administration’s responsibility to make more jobs available, by whatever means possible.

It serves no purpose to tear your hair and rend your garments over who’s responsible for this economic mess. We’re in the midst of it, and our elected leaders need to suck it up, make something positive happen.

What this administration and this country need is a secondary stimulus program, one designed specifically to address the jobs crisis, and fix the problem. The first Obama stimulus bill was designed to restore economic stability, leading eventually to economic growth. There are encouraging signs that’s exactly what is happening.

But that legislation did not include enough funding to complete the task, which in large part has to do with creating jobs. The sky-is-falling skeptics whining about the growing national debt don’t seem to realize that, without incurring such debt, the nation was — and still is — in grave peril of financial failure on a monumental scale.

Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist who focuses on economic issues, wrote recently that one key element in this secondary stimulus effort is for the federal government to send more money to cash-strapped state and local governments. More federal money at the state and local level would restore hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, and keep public education from being gutted.

These are expensive, complicated solutions to deal with a complex and very dangerous situation. Critics may view such federal intervention with alarm, equating it with the federal government’s effort to co-opt local government control.

That’s an interesting theory, but largely irrelevant. Think of the U.S. economy as an injured soldier, who is unable to stand without crutches. Are we going to pay for those crutches, or not?


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