As we approach Labor Day, 2011, the three biggest concerns on the minds of the American people are jobs, jobs and jobs.
With the official unemployment and underemployment rate combined at 25 percent and the worst economy since the Great Depression showing no sign of improving for the vast majority, it cannot be otherwise.
The labor movement is calling for $4 trillion in government spending to rebuild the nation's infrastructure and for government programs on the scale of the WPA in the 1930s. Rep, Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., has introduced a bill that moves in this direction. Over the next two years her measure would directly create more than 2 million jobs.
Given the crisis, people are looking to President Obama to lay out his jobs program this Labor Day or next week, as the White House has announced he will.
The unemployment crisis is so deep and so pervasive that only a massive program of federal spending to create many millions of jobs will have any real impact.
The president has proven, time and again, that he is a voice of reason, that he is realistic and that he believes in compromise while the Republicans are willing to consider anything, up to and including outright treason, if it advances their aim of defeating him in 2012.
The jobs program President Obama unfurls needs to go way beyond any "reasonable" mix, however, of a few tax cuts, patent reforms and limited work on highways and airports. The GOP will oppose these things anyway.
A real jobs plan begins with restoring balance. The rich must pay their fair share in taxes. (The bulk of the deficit is the result of tax cuts that benefited the wealthy.)
The corporations claim that the economy isn't rebounding because of "uncertainty" on the part of corporate leaders about how much they may have to pay in taxes. The second piece of a real jobs plan, then, is to clear up that uncertainty by telling corporations they will have to pay their fair share and by assuring the broad majority of workers that there will be increases, not cuts, in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Adding to these programs, like fair tax rates for the rich and corporations, is part of restoring the balance in the economy. The joblessness we suffer results from the lack of balance we have had for so long.
The third part of a real jobs plan is to make a serious investment in America. That means, at a bare minimum, $2 trillion to shore up existing infrastructure and $2 trillion more in the technologies of the 21st century - high speed rail, clean energy and universal broadband to begin with. Pass the Schakowsky bill on top of this and we would begin to make a serious dent in the unemployment crisis.
The more basic issue for all of us on this Labor Day is whether we, as a nation, believe everyone can be a full participant in the life of the nation. This is the issue we can all address at town hall meetings and rallies that will happen from one end of the country to the other. Tell the tea partiers that their vision of a "can't do America" is a vision we reject. This is the issue we can address by signing jobs petitions put out by the AFL-CIO and others.
The basic issue for all of us on this Labor Day is whether we believe the people make the rules - or is it some chosen few who do that? Tell your elected representatives that it is the people who are in charge.
The basic issue for all of us on this Labor Day is whether hard work is rewarded with economic security and a future of greatness or whether it results in nothing more than additional wealth for the people on top. Tell your elected officials that we will claim the fruits of our labor.
People are proving every day that they will fight for jobs and justice. We hope, this Labor Day, that the president will put forward the type of bold jobs plan the country needs. If you do, Mr. President, we will have your back.