My fellow Americans, we cannot tackle our nation’s deepest problems until we tackle its biggest current problem. And that problem is that too many men and women who want to work cannot.
When Americans are out of work, they cannot support their families or invest in their futures. Young people move home and struggle under student debt. Older Americans leave the workforce for good, often without health care or adequate savings for retirement. The longer workers are out of a job, the harder it is for them to get back on their feet. And the harder it is for our nation to get back on its feet. When jobs are plentiful, wages rise. When jobs are plentiful, people invest in skills. When jobs are plentiful, the ladder of advancement is scalable. When jobs are plentiful, we are able to honor the sacred commitments we have made to the security and advancement of the American people.
Some say we cannot afford to get Americans back to work. They are wrong. If our economy were running at full speed, we wouldn’t have a budget problem. As the experience of our great ally across the Atlantic, Britain shows, trying to slash the budget now will only make the jobs problem — and our budget challenges — worse. We know this, experience has shown it. The United States has recovered more quickly than Europe because we have understood that the budget isn’t just a line of numbers. It is a set of priorities, for today and for the future. And our top priority must be getting Americans back to work.
That is why I am calling on Congress to spur job creation through large-scale investment in our nation’s productive capacity. This is not just about helping those who are struggling; it is about our future, our children’s future, our planet’s future. In a global knowledge economy, we need more than ever to bolster our competitive standing. We need to invest in roads and bridges, in broadband available to all, in our elementary and high schools and community colleges. We need to invest in clean energy and green technology to head off the threat of global warming. And we need to step up our investments in research and development and science — to provide the seed corn for the next entrepreneurial harvest.
The road back from the crisis that Wall Street helped create is a long one. And yes, we are moving down that road at last. Last year, our economy added over 2 million jobs. But we must speed up our pace. At the current rate of job creation, it will be almost a decade before we return to the employment levels that prevailed before the crisis.
We cannot wait that long.
Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson are the authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. In the inaugural episode of Moyers & Company, Hacker and Pierson discussed their book with Bill.