Help More of Our People Make It In America — By Reps. Emanuel Cleaver II and Steny Hoyer — America is still recovering from the worst economic crisis many of us have seen in our lifetimes. For many African-Americans, recovery is not coming nearly fast enough. We have made some progress since the worst days of the crisis — President Obama
While the unemployment rate for all Americans remains at just over 9 percent, the unemployment rate for African Americans is an appalling 16.7 percent. Black communities in cities like Detroit, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis-St. Paulare facing unemployment rates above 20 percent that rival the worst of the 1930s. The picture is even bleaker when we count those working fewer hours than they would choose as well as those who have given up the search for work entirely.
This is simply unacceptable. We must do more to get Americans back to work. Everywhere we go, we hear one word from our constituents: jobs. They want a positive, bipartisan, job-creating agenda from Congress, and they want it now. President Barack Obama and Democrats have a plan to do so, offering three complementary initiatives to get people back to work.
Taken together, President Obama’s American Jobs Act, the Congressional Black Caucus’ For the People Jobs Initiative and House Democrats’ Make it in America plan provide Congress with real solutions that will begin putting people back to work now.
This month, President Obama sent to Congress the American Jobs Act, a bill based on bipartisan ideas that will help put people back to work in the jobs that form the backbone of our communities: teachers, first responders, and construction workers.
Out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world is crucial to renewing opportunity in this country and confronting the joblessness that still plagues too many of our communities. Which is a big reason why the Make It In America plan focuses on manufacturing. The loss of manufacturing jobs has hit African Americans especially hard. In 1979, almost one in four African-American workers in the U.S. had a manufacturing job. Today, it’s about one in ten. However, we are seeing a resurgence of the U.S. manufacturing sector, and it has the potential to create jobs and address the African-American unemployment crisis.
The Make It In America plan also includes legislation to help more Americans receive training for well-paying jobs, building links between colleges and advanced manufacturers so students can be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow and so manufacturers can fill their personnel needs without moving their operations overseas. The Make It In America plan seeks to drive innovation by helping small business entrepreneurs thrive right here at home through tax credits and grants. President Obama signed six Make It In America bills last year. This year, one Make It In America bill to reform the patent process and encourage innovation has been signed into law. But there is more still to be done.
That is why we are not stopping there. The Congressional Black Caucus has put forward the For the People Jobs Initiative, which consists of jobs-focused legislation, job fairs in economically distressed cities, town hall meetings, “Job Creation Recommendations: Create, Protect, Rebuild,” and a Jobs Commission. Both this initiative and the American Jobs Act emphasize small business development, education, and worker training — the same core elements of House Democrats’ Make It In America plan.
The House should consider the nine job creation proposals included in the CBC’s Job Creation Recommendations, which target our nation’s most vulnerable communities. We believe those who have suffered relentlessly from our country’s “Great Recession” have another chance ahead of them to pursue the American dream by “Creating, Protecting, and Rebuilding.” Creating and maintaining an infrastructure bank to invest in our country’s aging infrastructure and establishing and revitalizing critical community programs. Protecting our nation’s most vital programs to preserve our economic security while providing tax protections and eliminating barriers for small businesses. Rebuilding, educating, and re-training our nation’s workforce.
Democrats believe in an economy that provides job opportunities for everyone who wants to work, and we won’t stop working until we get there. To achieve this, Washington must focus on job creation, and passing the American Jobs Act is the first step, followed by passing the CBC’s “For the People” Job Creation Recommendations and the Make it in America plan.