Thursday, October 21, 2010

Conyers' Deficit-Neutral Jobs Bill

Conyers' Deficit-Neutral Jobs Bill
cross-posted from Open Congress blog

by Donny Shaw (July 14, 2010)

If I had to pick the top three factors in U.S. politics right now I would say the unemployment situation, concern about the deficit, and distrust of the financial industry. Remarkably, Rep. John Conyers [D, MI-14] (pictured) has introduced a bill this session that seems to fall on the popular side of all three of these issues. It would be deficit neutral, dramatically reduce unemployment, and levy a new tax on the riskiest Wall Street transactions.

The bill is called the 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act. Here’s how it would work.

First, the bill sets a series of binding unemployment-rate targets that over a ten-year period would bring the rate down to 4%. Here are the targets:

  • 9% unemployment after 6 months of the bill being enacted
  • 8% unemployment after 2 years
  • 6% unemployment after 5 years
  • 5% unemployment after 8 years
  • 4% unemployment after 4 years
If, according to data from the Labor Department, any of the above targets are not met, money would be automatically disbursed from a new “National Full Employment Trust Fund” that would be set up under the bill to fund new job positions around the country. That money would go primarily to city governments in areas with exceptionally high unemployment rates, but some of it would also go to state governments (30%) and indian tribes (5%). Those funds would then be disbursed to public and private projects that directly address the needs of their communites.

Examples spelled out in the bill include repairing schools, revitalizing abandoned property, expanding emergency food programs, and increasing staff at programs that help disadvantaged youth.

All jobs created under the bill would have to be designed to last for 12 months or more at at least 30 hours per week. They would also have to meet some minimum pay requirements to ensure that employees funded by the bill earn rates equivalent to regular employees.

You’re probably wondering how anything like this could possibly be deficit neutral. Well, the answer is that the bill calls for a new financial transactions tax to be levied on companies that engage in high-risk trades. Stock trades, futures contracts and credit default swaps would all be included. More exotic transactions would likely be taxed several times over under the bill, and the impact on short-term, risky speculation would be more significant than that on long-term investing and hedging. The idea behind this financial transaction tax is twofold — it raises money to fund the jobs trust fund and it discourages financial companies from getting involved in too much short-term speculation.

This bill has not moved an inch in the legislative process. It was introduced on May 4, 2010 and has been stuck in committee since. But that’s really no surprise. Congress right now can hardly pass a 6-month extension of unemployment insurance, let alone a massive new jobs program. And they can’t pass a financial reform bill that contains a relatively modest $19-blilion-over-ten-years tax on big banks and hedge funds, let alone a sweeping financial transactions tax that could cost the industry as much as $100 billion per year. But support for the bank tax is steadily growing — see the work of Dean Baker and Bankster USA — and the unemployment situation is set to take a turn for the worst, so a legislative package like this may look different to us in the coming months and years.

Read HR 5204

Ripple effects of unemployment on American families

Video on the impact of unemployment on American Families from Unnatural Causes series (California Newsreel)

Unemployment Web Exclusive from Ken Hebert on Vimeo.

Dean Baker: Political Impasse Prolongs Grim Forecast For Job Creation

More GRITtv

What's the future for America's workers?  If Republicans succeed in taking over the Congress, many  suggest cutting or eliminating minimum wage, slashing employee benefits, staving off union organizing.  A recent New York Times headline reports “Across the U.S., Long Recovery Looks Like Recession” and the job figures this month reported losses in public sector jobs and meager increase in private sector employment. So what's a nation to do in the current political climate?  We check in with GRITtv Economics correspondent, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy & Research and author of False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy.

Other Priority Federal Job Creation Legislation

Other priority job creation legislation introduced in the 111th Congress includes the following bills.  The Put America to Work Campaign thanks the sponsors of these bills for their leadership, and also expresses our appreciation to all members of Congress who are fighting to pass comprehensive job creation legislation.

1) Local Jobs for America Act (H.R.4812), Sponsor: Rep Miller, George [CA-7] (introduced 3/10/2010)

§         $75 billion over two years to local communities to hire vital staff
§         Funding for 50,000 on-the-job private-sector training positions

§         $23 billion this year to help states support 250,000 education jobs
§         $1.18 billion to put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the beat
§         $500 million to retain, rehire, and hire firefighters

The bill provides $75 billion for 750,000 jobs providing needed local services:
-- $52.5 billion directly to communities with at least 50,000 residents – Mayors, County Officials and Governors would submit a statement to the need for the specific positions to the Department of Labor. The department would then distribute funding to communities based on the Community Development Block Grant formula.

Half of the funding will go to positions that would be eliminated due to ongoing budget shortfalls. Up to 25 percent of the funding can go to non-profit community organizations that provide services not customarily provided by local government employees. The remaining 25 percent may be used for creation of new jobs in local government.

-- $22.5 billion directly to governors to distribute to communities with fewer than 50,000 residents – Job creation funding will sent to towns, counties, or private non-profits outside of those communities eligible for the funding above. Local governments will apply to the governor for the funding.

Like support to larger communities, half of the funding may be spent on retention of positions slated for elimination, up to 25 percent of the funding can go to non-profit community organizations that provide services not customarily provided by local government employees. The remaining 25 percent may be used for creation of new jobs in local government. The governor must fairly distribute the funding among congressional districts, in proportion to each district’s rural population.
2) Put America to Work Act of 2009   (H.R. 4268), introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison, described in this press release
Appropriates $40 billion to local governments to create jobs in the public or non-profit sector and potentially in small businesses that provide public services. This investment will create approximately 1 million jobs across the nation.

Directs the Secretary of Labor to award fast-track federal grants to local governments to create employment opportunities across a broad array of critical infrastructure and revitalization projects. 

(A) The painting and repair of schools, community centers, and libraries.
(B) The restoration and revitalization of abandoned and vacant properties to alleviate blight in distressed and foreclosure-affected areas of a unit of general local government.
(C) The expansion of emergency food pro- grams to reduce hunger and promote family stability.
(D) The augmentation of staffing in Head Start, child care, and other early childhood edu- cation programs to promote school readiness and early literacy.
(E) The renovation and enhancement of maintenance of parks, playgrounds, and other public spaces.

After 9 months, additional grants would be made grant to public entities, nonprofit organizations, public-private partnerships, or small businesses to create opportunities for employment in the following areas:

(A) Construction, re-construction, rehabilitation, and site improvements of residences or public facilities, including improvements in the energy efficiency or environmental quality of such public facilities or residences.
(B) Provision of human services, including child care services, health care services, education, or recreational programs.
(C) The remediation and demolition of vacant and abandoned properties to eliminate blight.
(D) Programs that provide disadvantaged youth with opportunities for employment, education, leadership development, entrepreneurial skills development, and training.

Local governments would collaborate with community organizations, labor and other community leaders to identify the projects that would be most beneficial.  All jobs would be subject to strict non-displacement requirements, and no individual could be employed by any employer where there is a collective bargaining agreement in effect covering the same or similar work, except with concurrence of the union.

The bill would invest $60 billion in federal funding to create 3 million jobs through a targeted, three-tiered approach.

  • First, the bill would establish a public works and public interest grant program administered by the Department of Labor to put people back to work immediately, similar to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration.   $31 billion would be appropriated to make grants to state, county and municipal governments and non-profit community based organizations to create jobs to meet community needs.  Jobs would include afterschool programs, environmental restoration, social services, painting schools and restoring and preserving historical landmarks.
  • Second, it would distribute $20 billion in direct aid to financially-strapped state and local governments so they can retain their current workforce and make new hires.  Funds would be provided in federal grants to retain and hire personnel for elementary and secondary education, public works and economic development, police and homeland security. 
  • Third and finally, $9 billion funding would be spent to put Americans back to work renovating our National Parks and Forests, much like the Conservation Corps of the 1970’s.

The National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2009 would:

Create a National Infrastructure Development Bank: Modeled after the European Investment Bank and other development banks around the world, it would include an independent and objective Board of Directors to, among other things, make final infrastructure financing determinations; an Executive Committee to handle the day-to-day operations of the Bank; and Risk Management and Audit Committees to carefully manage risk and monitor the bank’s activities.

Attract Private Investment Toward Critical Infrastructure Projects: The bank Board would have the authority to, among other things, issue “public benefit” bonds; make loans and offer loan guarantees; and purchase and sell infrastructure-related loans and securities on the global capital market.

Depoliticize Infrastructure Investment: The Bank would consider infrastructure projects Depoliticize Infrastructure Investment: The Bank would consider infrastructure projects in the realm of transportation (i.e. highways, transit, inland waterways, rail and air travel), the environment (i.e. drinking and wastewater facilities and hazardous waste facilities); energy (i.e. renewable energy transmission and building efficiency); and telecommunications (i.e. broadband development). The Bank would objectively consider the economic, environmental, social benefits and costs of infrastructure projects, as well as other specific criteria, and fund projects of significance.

Capitalize a Bank: The bank is capitalized with authorized appropriations of $5 billion a year for 5 years as paid in capital, like the Obama budget, and a total of $250 billion in total subscribed capital available from the Treasury if needed.

Capitalize a Bank: The bank is capitalized with authorized appropriations of $5 billion a year for 5 years as paid in capital, like the Obama budget, and a total of $250 billion in total subscribed capital available from the Treasury if needed.

5) Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 2269), introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren.  For more information, see the Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign Website

Establishes within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Federal Coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding the Gulf Coast Civic Works Commission.
Requires the Commission to: (1) establish regional taskforces and prepare a regional policy plan; (2) establish and administer a Gulf Coast Civic Works Project that employs a minimum of 100,000 Gulf Coast region residents and evacuees for public works projects to rebuild and develop the Gulf Coast region impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; (3) establish or support existing job-training programs and apprenticeships to recruit and train qualified workers, with emphasis on women and disadvantaged workers from the Gulf Coast region, for specific job vacancies in approved Civic Works Projects and other recovery, rebuilding, and development projects; (4) ensure that all workers are paid wages at not less than the prevailing locality rate (Davis-Bacon Act); and (5) establish or coordinate other infrastructure projects, including environmental restoration, energy efficiency and conservation, search for affordable workforce housing, and youth works projects.

About the Campaign

The Put America to Work Campaign is a national grassroots citizens' campaign to pass comprehensive federal job creation legislation, achieve full employment and secure the right to a living wage job for every person in the U.S. who wants one.  

Our current strategic focus to build national support for HR 870, the Humphrey Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act, introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).   To mobilize support for the bill, we will be conducting a national program of community forums and teach-ins to educate policymakers and citizens about the jobs crisis and the need for massive public investment to improve our infrastructure, human services and social safety net.  

We seek to put a human face on unemployment, underemployment, financial insecurity and economic distress.  Our goal is to build a powerful national social movement that harnesses the voices of ordinary Americans and community organizations to permanently improve the economic rights for people who live in this country, including the right to a job, the right to a decent education, the right to health care and the right to income and retirement security. 

In taking on this challenge, we want to create a more compassionate and solidaristic economy, where the public interest and the common welfare are valued, and people from all walks of life join together to reduce and eliminate poverty and chronic unemployment.   Whether we have a good job or we are unemployed, we have a huge stake in each other's well-being.  The problems of unemployment, poor wages and poverty are not just the problems of the unemployed and the poor -- they are the problems of all of us.  We have all seen corporations abruptly eliminate and shed jobs of highly-paid workers when it suits them to do so.  The economic security of workers-at-large will be greatly improved by ensuring that everyone who wants to work has the right and opportunity to do so. 

To that end, we seek to inspire a much high level of public awareness and civic engagement about solving the serious, long-standing and chronic problems of unemployment, underemployment and poverty in the U.S.  Even in relatively good times, tens of millions of Americans have continued to suffer with inadequate job opportunities and low wages.   The fight for full employment and economic justice must go to the top of the national agenda, and stay there until all Americans have the economic right to a decent job and livelihood.

The campaign is a project of the National Jobs for All Coalition, a national organization based in New York that advocates for full employment and living wage jobs for all.  Contributions to NJFAC are tax-deductible and we welcome financial and volunteer contributions in support of the campaign.

To join the campaign and endorse HR 870, or request more information, please fill out our contact form.

Contact Us!

Please contact us by filling out the form below, or sending an email to cbell [at]

Link to contact form

Link to contact form


Put America to Work Campaign
c/o National Jobs for All Coalition
PO Box 0012
Maryknoll, NY 10545
Email: cbell [at]
(914) 830-0639