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Five Ways to Get America Back to Work


January 3, 2012

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It is America’s top priority: attacking the jobs crisis and putting Americans back to work. Continuing partisan deadlock has so far kept Congress from taking action, but that has not stopped some elected officials from promoting new ideas - ideas that working families are pushing to make the centerpiece of the 2012 elections. Here are five that could help IBEW members from every branch get off the bench:

1. Infrastructure Bank: Proposed by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Kay Hutchinson (R-Texas), and Mark Warner, (D-Va.), an independent national infrastructure bank would provide federal loans as startup capital to help encourage private investment in highways, bridges, rail and clean energy.  Serious revamping of our industrial infrastructure is long overdue, engineering experts say. The American Society of Civil Engineers grades our infrastructure a “D”, saying it will cost $2.2 trillion to bring it fully up to date.  A bank will help guarantee future economic growth and put tens of thousands of construction and utility workers on-the-job right away.

As MSNBC reports:

According to the Department of Transportation's 2008 numbers, every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates between 27,800 and 34,800 jobs.

The Infrastructure Bank proposal is part of Obama’s jobs package.

2. Extend Payroll Tax Cut, Unemployment Benefits: With consumer demand still near rock bottom, putting more money into the hands of working families is vital to keeping local economies alive. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending unemployment insurance for another year will create 323,000 jobs, while extending the payroll tax cut would create 400,000 new jobs according to economist Joel Prakken. Both extensions are supported by President Obama and congressional Democrats.

3. Energy Investment: A comprehensive national push to invest in both renewable energy – solar, wind and biofuels – as well as boosting traditional energy resources such as clean coal, natural gas and domestically produced oil would put tens of thousands of electrical workers back on the job. While President Obama’s 2009 recovery act provided important incentives for renewable projects, the federal government has dragged its feet on further measures.  As former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently wrote:

Federal support for development of new energy sources is lower today than at any other point in U.S. history, and our government is forcing the clean-energy sector into a competitive disadvantage.

Some immediate steps Congress can take on the energy jobs front:

  • Renew the Production Tax Credit for renewable energy and clean coal technology. For example, the wind power industry currently supports 75,000 construction, utility and manufacturing jobs thanks in large part to the tax incentives provided by the wind production tax credit – which expires at the end of 2012. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that by 2030, the wind industry will support 500,000 jobs – but only as long as the federal government continues to make sure it remains internationally competitive.
  • Encourage building retrofits for energy efficiency through tax credits and federal rebates, like the recently passed Energy Savings Performance Contracts program. James Dixon, vice president for legal and compliance services at Con Edison Energy and Dan Kerr, director of energy services at McClure Co., estimates that efforts to retrofit state and local buildings in Pennsylvania would create 19,000 high-paying jobs in the Keystone State alone.
  • Pass the Fair Compliance Act of 2011, introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Dan Coats’ (R-Ind.). The bill sets a realistic time frame for utilities to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency clean air rules, saving and/or creating thousands of utility jobs retrofitting power plants with clean coal technology.

4. Crack Down on Chinese Currency Manipulation: China’s artificially undervalued currency makes Chinese products cheaper in the U.S. and American products more expensive in China. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that cracking down on currency manipulation – as called for by the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, passed by the House of Representatives last fall – would create more than 1 million jobs.

5. Buy American: Many Americans were outraged by the news that the recently completed east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge – the largest public works project in California history – used Chinese-made steel. The “Invest in American Jobs Act of 2011, sponsored by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) would help prevent such incidents by eliminating loopholes in existing “Buy America” requirements to ensure that all components used in public works projects are made in America.