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America’s Future Depends on Jobs

I have a program on Sirius XM radio called “American Voices” in which I interview people about their lives. Each show, I talk to someone who has an unusual job – a boat captain at the mouth of the Columbia River, a groundskeeper at Fenway Park, a public health nurse in the Aleutian Islands, or a man who washes the windows of New York City skyscrapers. Each conversation is about the dignity and nobility of work. When you work at something you love, whatever it is, your chances for self-fulfillment and prosperity dramatically increase.
Today there are 22 million Americans who want to work but can’t find a job. And 46 million people live in poverty. That’s the highest number in history – higher even than during the Great Depression. Real median per capita income in the United States in 2010 was the same as it was in 1996, which means that the middle class is stuck and losing ground.

In the last decade alone, 40,000 American factories have closed, and 6 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared. This is not only an economic tragedy, but a personal tragedy for the millions of people who now have to worry if they can in fact ever provide a better life for their kids.

That’s why Create Jobs for USA – started by Starbucks and Opportunity Finance Network – is so important.  It won’t solve the problem of unemployment, but it’s an example of what one company, a group of citizens and each of us as individuals, can do to help.  That’s why I’m contributing all the royalties for any sale in a Starbucks store of my new book, We Can All Do Better, to the Create Jobs for USA Program.

America’s future depends on us creating more jobs paying higher incomes. We can do that by passing laws which ensure if a company hires an additional worker and lays no one off, the federal government will pay 30% of that person’s salary for two years. And we can do that by funding significant infrastructure projects that generate 5 million jobs. We can do this by reducing the uncertain future represented by the budget deficit, thereby encouraging non-financial U.S. corporations to use some of the $1.8 trillion in cash and liquid assets they now have on their books to actually hire U.S. workers. If just 20% of that money was spent on hiring at the median yearly income of $49,000, our unemployment rate would plunge to 5%.
But as Create Jobs for USA shows, government and the private sector can’t do it all alone. It takes individual citizens to step forward and contribute too. At root, we have to ask ourselves the basic question: What do we owe another human being, just because he or she is a human being?  One of the things we owe them is the chance to express the dignity of work. To make that a reality for more people once again will take farsighted political leadership, committed corporate leadership and dedicated citizens to make America what America can be.



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