Since I arrived in Congress, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has not allowed a single vote on serious legislation to address our unemployment crisis. Congress has instead been consumed by a single-minded focus on the federal budget deficit.
Well, I have news for my colleagues: Unemployment is our real deficit. Unemployment is not only the moral crisis of our time — leaving families homeless and dreams destroyed — but also an underlying cause of our federal government’s increased levels of borrowing. Massive job losses following the 2008 financial crisis left us with fewer tax receipts and more people requiring benefits.
There’s ultimately only one responsible way to reduce the federal deficit: Get everyone trained, working, and contributing to the tax base.
This is why I sponsored the Jobs Now Act, a 21st Century update to President Nixon’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program, to provide funding directly to local governments to train and hire millions of Americans to do crucial work in our communities.
This is why President Obama has proposed the comprehensive American Jobs Act to repair our nation’s aging roads, bridges, and electrical systems while retraining millions to succeed in the global marketplace.
This is why economists, activists, and everyday citizens have called out for targeted spending to proactively protect our cities from the impacts of natural disasters, to educate our young children to one day compete in the global economy, and to undertake research to maintain our edge in medical and communications technologies.
The Republican response is just the opposite.
In less than one week, the “sequester,” a series of reckless across the board cuts to federal agencies is scheduled to take effect. These cuts — which are the direct result of the Tea Party-led debt ceiling fiasco of 2011 — are expected to cost the nation more than two million jobs, including more than 79,000 right here in Florida. But the costs run deeper:
• Education cuts would mean 70,000 young children losing access to Head Start.
• Nutrition cuts would mean elderly Americans in need going without 4 million meals and 600,000 struggling women and children going without food assistance.
• Criminal justice cuts would mean federal prosecutors handling 2,600 fewer cases — including murders and other serious crimes.
• Research and innovation cuts would mean an end to essential grants for 12,000 scientists and students.
• Mental health cuts would mean up to 373,000 people with serious mental and emotional problems going untreated.
• Defense cuts would mean denied healthcare services for military families and an additional 100,000 soldiers let go from the Army over the next several years.
These cuts are not just at odds with common sense. They’re at odds with the interests of nearly every American: from schoolchildren to small business owners; from struggling seniors to soldiers in Afghanistan. Even the very wealthiest Americans — whose continued financial success depends on a strong American economy — stand to lose. Respected economists have shown that these reckless cuts would push our economy back into recession.
While President Obama has proposed eliminating special interest tax loopholes to enable the nation to avoid these cuts, Congressional leaders are standing in the way. Republicans have agreed to soften some of the military cuts — but only in exchange for even deeper cuts to education, healthcare, science, and public safety.
It’s up to you to make them change.
Please call Florida’s representatives and senators in Washington, and tell them to stop the “sequester.” Tell them to take a stand for the more than 14.4 million Americans who are unemployed, including hundreds of thousands in our state.
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson represents Florida District 17 in Congress.