Former post-World War II jobless majority still struggling

by Rebecca McLeod

The Great Recession? What Great Recession?

For many people, the current recovery has brought an economic reawakening after the longest downturn in over 80 years. But unlike other recoveries, this recovery is reminiscent of the Great Depression.

Although current economic indicators indicate that the Great Recession is over, Americans are still struggling to get back on their feet. Unemployment remains at historically high levels; millions are still living below the poverty line; and minorities continue to face more social and economic barriers to advancement.

Three-quarters of the current generation will be unemployed or poor before they turn 65, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Another agency estimates that many youth will not see their first year of college paid for. And of all the world’s nations, only the United States and Britain have higher student debt burdens than they did in 2007. The net worth of many families has fallen substantially.

While previous recessions were caused by business failures, this one occurred through reckless spending by individuals. In addition, our current economic crisis remains tied to the political and economic direction of the United States and other advanced economies, even as Greece defaults and the Federal Reserve Bank of Frankfurt begins to raise interest rates.

It’s important to understand that the current recovery is not an economic boom, even as home values recover from the depths of the crash. Many individual households remain under financial stress. They cannot maintain existing standard of living as their incomes stay suppressed. A healthier economic recovery would require a substantial shift in policies and industries that are promoting innovation.

In order to make this happen, there are four steps that we, Americans, can take to create a better economy:

First, Congress should enact comprehensive immigration reform. Our policy is failing to adapt to a new era in global economic competition. We are not receiving what we need.

Roughly half of all immigrants came to the United States for work or to improve their lives. Yet because we deregulated our workforce, immigrants are struggling to find work in America.

A Washington Post/Pew Research Center study estimates that immigrants actually pay about $500 billion more in taxes than they receive in government benefits. Immigration is the reason we have consumer-based, innovative firms like Apple, Starbucks, and Yelp. Without it, the country would be stuck in an oligopoly environment, which can hamper innovation.

A wealth tax on those who make more than $10 million a year should be implemented, while a greater emphasis on skill training should be undertaken.

Second, we must establish a safety net policy that supports struggling families. In 2012, Americans spent nearly $500 billion on food stamps, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. We need to improve the delivery of these services, increase funding, and shift resources to help the millions of parents, children, and seniors, including the elderly living in poverty.

Third, the government needs to create an effective public works program that benefits low-income Americans, workers, and communities of color.

And finally, we must channel the enthusiasm and creativity of today’s youth into jobs. We should challenge students and young adults to see innovation, entrepreneurship, and innovation as a profession. Everyone in the United States should know an innovator as a visionary leader in their lives. And working Americans need an economic strategy to boost the economy, not compete for the services of the unemployed and underemployed.

At a time when the United States will have 27 million more adults aged 55 and older, we must prioritize investing in our younger workers. More than 72 percent of colleges and universities nationwide surveyed reported that they receive 40 percent of their funding from government sources.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the cornerstone of the struggle for civil rights and workers’ rights in the US. Since we are no longer on a path to truly liberalize labour laws, we must harness the power of education. If we want our youth to better themselves, more needs to be done for our youth. We have an obligation to provide our youth with the tools they need to succeed. We all lose by failing to do so.

For more information about the $100,000 pledge, go to Theirs Is a Traditional Untraditional Class.

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