CHICAGO - A crowd of local union members, advocates for the unemployed and elected officials were on hand outside the Gould Elementary School here Aug. 10, for the unveiling of the first jobs bill which actually aims to hire people.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who sits on President Obama's 18-member Fiscal Commission, announced she will introduce the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, which will put over 2 million people to work for two years.
"It begins with this simple idea: If we want to create jobs, then create jobs," the Congresswoman declared. "I'm not talking about incentivizing companies in the hope they'll hire someone, or cutting taxes for the so-called job creators who have done nothing of the sort. My plan creates actual new jobs."
The congresswoman's bill is the first one in response to the current economic crisis that involves direct creation of jobs by the government. The government in the 1930's to get the country out of the Great Depression created massive jobs.
"For months," Schakowsky declared, "They have been talking about the deficit but the worst deficit this country faces isn't the budget deficit. It's the jobs deficit. We need to get our people and our economy moving again."
The congresswoman blasted Republicans.
"For many of them, high unemployment is not a problem. In fact, they feel it is a good thing if it serves their big political goal - the defeat of President Obama," Schakowsky said. "Their willingness to destroy the economy and the country to meet their political goals is nothing short of treason," she added.
Schakowsky called Janet Edburg, a jobless factory worker who has exhausted her 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, to the speakers' platform. Not able to hold back her tears but speaking in a loud, firm voice Edburg told the hushed crowd: "You cannot imagine how it feels to lose your job, to be homeless and have to be taken in by a friend." Pounding on the podium, she declared, "It is about time that something be done."
Schakowsky stepped back up and, putting her arm around Edburg, said, "This is America and we can do better than this."
Community activists backing the bill described how it creates 2.2 million jobs designed to meet a variety of critical needs across the nation.
Ina Allen, a music teacher at Chute School in Evanston, Ill., explained how the School Improvement Corps that the bill creates would result in 400,000 construction and 250,000 maintenance jobs on school rehabilitation projects.
Ravi Durga, a sophomore at George Washington University said, "America is slipping behind because it is not funding education the away it did when we put a man on the moon." He noted that Schakowsky's bill creates 250,000 part-time, work-study jobs for college students.
The measure's Park Improvement Corps creates 100,000 jobs for youth 16 to 25, restoring natural, cultural, and historic, recreational and scenic resources.
The Neighborhood Heroes Corps hires 300,000 teachers, 40,000 cops, and 12,000 firefighters while the Health Corps hires 40,000 health care providers, including doctors, nurses, physicians' assistants and health care workers.
750,000 jobs are created by a Community Corps, which focuses on public property maintenance, housing rehabilitation and new housing construction while 100,000 jobs are created in early childhood care and education by the Child Care Corps.
The bill would cost $227 billion or $113.5 billion over each of two years.
"Paying for this is not a problem," Schakowsky told the gathering. "It can be fully paid for by requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes and by eliminating subsidies for oil companies and the tax loopholes used by wealthy corporations that are shipping our jobs overseas."
She acknowledged that her bill, alone, would not solve the unemployment problem. "It is a part of and a supplement to a much broader approach to tackling the problem," she said. "We also need an infrastructure bank, extended aid for the unemployed, more of the types of programs that are part of this bill and there are other steps that have to be taken. But this bill will get us moving because it does what we have to do - it puts people to work," she said.
Photo: Rep. Jan Schakowsky speaking to crowd of supporters about her new jobs-creation bill, in Chicago, Aug. 10. Blake Deppe/PW.