With unemployment again rising to over 9 percent, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is launching a summer tour in cities across the country to promote federal action to address the jobs crisis. The "Speak out for Good Jobs Now" initiative will feature public hearings where workers will have an opportunity to voice their concerns and ideas about the economy.
The tour will be held in 12 cities. The first stop on the tour is Minneapolis and coincides with the Netroots conference.
Congressman John Conyers, D-Mich., at a press conference called for more militant action to demand employment. "Let's get mad," he said. "Let's tell the man that we love in the White House to get off of his butt and start supporting some legislation for jobs. ... He's the best speaker in the world, and now we want some action."
Rep. Conyers in March reintroduced HR 870, the "Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment & Training Act," a deficit-neutral bill aimed at providing employment to the jobless.
The White House's approach to job creation has focused on small business and corporate efforts. Congressional action has been stymied by the GOP majority in the House.
Republicans instead have focused public attention on the deficit and the debt-ceiling. "The media and the right wing and, of course, some Democrats have been talking about intangibles like the debt ceiling or the job picture," said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., co-chair of the caucus. We wanted to do a tour that really talks about what matters to people."
The GOP has blocked all discussions of additional federal economic stimulus, proposing instead tax cuts and rollbacks of government programs. Under pressure, Democrats have acquiesced. The New York Times says, "In fact, all job-creating proposals that involve spending money are considered verboten among both parties, because Republicans have cowed Democrats with the argument that the 2009 stimulus bill was an irredeemable failure and the deficit is causing unemployment."
President Obama is presently in talks with the GOP leadership about spending limits so as to prevent a government shutdown. The cuts will in all likelihood be severe.
Yet, faced with weak job growth, troubled international stock markets and the prospect of a new round of Wall Street layoffs, even the New York Times recognizes the need for federal action: "The economy needs help, like direct federal job creation and options for homeowners to reduce the principal on troubled loans."
Such action, however, seems unlikely without additional pressure, as envisioned by Congressional Progressive Caucus jobs tour.
Recognizing this, Rep. Conyers spoke to plans by the Congressional Black Caucus, of which he is also a member, to march on the White House this fall: "That's why we are marching Sept. 21 to the White House. Because the poor don't have any lobbyists. There's not one lobbyist for the poor on K street. Not one."
The AFL-CIO and Jobs with Justice have been promoting a National Emergency Campaign for jobs as well. The campaign has promoted actions on the first Friday of every month, when employment numbers are released.