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A Vision for Economic Renewal: An American Jobs Agenda

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I have a piece at Alternet on the new proposal issued by the Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and the United Steelworkers. Entitled “A Vision for Economic Renewal: An American Jobs Agenda,” this report identifies six areas where the government could make a positive impact in putting Americans back to work. I discuss each of them with analysis. One example:

6. Youth Unemployment

Youth unemployment has skyrocketed during the economic crisis. The report explores connections between early unemployment and long-term poverty, noting, “young people who do not have a successful work experience by age 25 are at a greatly increased risk of lifelong poverty.” Even college graduates are in danger; those who have to take low-wage jobs early in their careers earn 30-40% less for life than average college graduates. The report urges the government to address this crisis by creating jobs programs for in-school youth, providing vouchers to stimulate demand for young workers, and extending the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

I applaud the report for focusing on this serious problem. Millions of unemployed youth is a recipe for societal instability. During the Great Depression, young, unemployed men provided the shock troops for fascist regimes throughout Europe. In the United States, commentators of the day feared that the young and unemployed could take the U.S. toward either communism or fascism and fretted about both possibilities. Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal clearly inspired the report’s authors, recognized the potential destabilizing effects of angry young people with nothing to do and put them to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps, Works Progress Administration, and other federal agencies. If anything, I’d like to see the report call for even greater emphasis on employing the young through direct government employment.

If we had serious leaders, this report would be a model that politicians would get behind for resuscitating the American economy. Alas, we live in the United States in 2011.

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