President Obama flew to Warren, Mich., July 14, to unveil his plan to pump billions of federal dollars into the nation’s community colleges so they can prepare youth for the “jobs of the future.”
His initiative deserves strong public support. But it begs a question: Will the jobs be there when these graduates enter the workforce? Prospects are not good. Financial giants are reporting fat profits in the first quarter. Wall Street is doing fine thanks to a trillion dollar taxpayer bailout.
But unemployment is 9.5 percent and the president warned it will rise past 10 percent. Economists warn of a “jobless recovery.”
Wall Street makes investment decisions based on expectations of big profit returns. The nation’s crumbling physical and social infrastructure is “exhibit # 1” on the roster of investments starved for funds because of this iron law of profit greed.
Rail passenger service, friendly to the environment, vital to moving huge numbers of people quickly, is a notorious money loser. Except in the United States., inter-city high speed rail passenger service is state-owned or heavily subsidized in every other country. Here, Amtrak is an orphan, forced to beg on bended knee for federal funds from scornful lawmakers still locked in the age of SUVs and other gas-guzzlers. Metro, the subway system in the nation’s capital, is counting the dead from the recent tragic collision because of this shortsighted policy on public investments.
Only a massive infusion of federal funds can rebuild our nation’s decrepit infrastructure. The place to start is with a second economic stimulus even larger than the first. This time, the funds should be earmarked for Main Street not Wall Street with direct federal jobs programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps and WPA during the 1930s and the CETA jobs program during the 1960s.
Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., have introduced H.R.-2521, with 37 cosponsors, to create a National Infrastructure Development Bank. The American Society of Civil Engineers, an endorser of the bill, estimates it will cost $2.2 trillion to achieve passing grades on building and upkeep of schools, mass transit, railroads, aviation, bridges, dams, levees, drinking water, sewers, and hazardous waste facilities. The hour is late. It is time to put 15 million jobless workers back on the payroll doing this necessary work.