Our Big Chance to Get America on its Feet

Cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics.

Read the post here.

When the Department of Labor’s latest jobs numbers come out on Friday, there’s one thing we can be certain of, regardless of whether unemployment is up or down: We still need more jobs. 

And right now, our leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to create them.

The huge tax breaks that President Bush extended to the wealthy are set to expire soon. If they go away -as most Americans want them to- it will free up $1.5 trillion dollars a year. That’s a lot of money—money we can use to get America back on its feet.

Our nation’s basic infrastructure has fallen into disrepair. Our roads and bridges are crumbling. Our water systems are broken. Our buildings are outdated and inefficient. And much of our electricity comes from last-century’s coal plants, which spew pollution into our air and water.

If we want to stay competitive in the global marketplace—and keep our communities healthy and prosperous—we need to fix our infrastructure. We need to make it modern, efficient, and sustainable. And to do that, we’ll need workers. Lots of them.

Jobs in transportation, water, energy efficiency, and clean energy tend to be good jobs. Many of them rely on workers from local communities—it’s impossible to outsource a job insulating a home or installing solar panels. And jobs like these in the green economy tend to pay more and require less formal education. That means they create pathways out of poverty and into the middle class.

We need to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure. We can lift people out of poverty in the process. And we have the funds we need to do it—if we end the enormous handouts we’ve been giving to millionaires and billionaires.

Despite the fact that most Americans are eager to see an end to these handouts, a handful in Congress want to keep them coming. This month, the House of Representatives is expected to bring up a bill that would extend the Bush tax breaks—and allow that valuable $1.5 trillion in federal dollars to evaporate.

If the bill passes, here are a few things we can count on: Our roads, bridges, energy, and water infrastructure will continue to decay—becoming more dangerous and inefficient by the minute. We’ll watch more of our neighbors search in vain for jobs to support their families. We’ll see more of our kids wondering where they will get their next meal. And America will fall farther and farther behind in the global economy.

Our country is at a crossroads, and the choice Congress makes about the Bush tax breaks will help determine which path we take from here.

Will we stay out in front, with modern transportation and innovative technology? Or will we be forced to rely on crumbling bridges, fight over scarce water, and breathe polluted air? Will we put millions of capable, eager Americans to work? Or will we let them languish without jobs? Will we become a model for the rest of the world—or will we let them point to us as an example of how it can go wrong?

This is our big chance. It’s our chance to set America on the right path—the path to prosperity. And we need our leaders to seize it.

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