Capitol Thoughts
Capitol Thoughts Archive

Groundhog Day

Nov 04, 2011

By Janaye Ingram

Just last weekend, the East Coast was hit with a Nor’easter. Kids were building snowmen, parents were digging themselves out and the whole scene had the feel of February. Things here in Washington feel a lot like February too – actually, they feel a lot like February 2nd to be exact as we continue to have the discussion about the importance of jobs. As the President continues to push the American Jobs Act, Congress continues to block it. And each day, millions of people struggle without jobs, not knowing how they will make next month’s mortgage or rent payment, buy groceries or provide for their family’s healthcare needs. It’s a daily struggle for many that they keep reliving and yet we seem to be at a stalemate when it comes to making real legislative progress.

Each week as I sit down to think about what to blog about, I toil with different ideas. There is so much going on in the world and here in Washington, that I could have my pick at anything. But as I meet people and hear their stories, the economy is the dominating headline. Sure, we can talk about the upcoming Presidential election and all that is related to that, we can talk about the G20 summit and the European economic crisis, we can talk about Solyndra, but what most of the people who are reading this blog have heavy on their minds is jobs. For too many people, there is still no relief in sight.
With the release of the October jobs report today, there was a small glimmer of hope as the unemployment rate for the nation overall dropped to 9.0% and is the lowest it has been since April of this year. But can we really be happy about a 9.0% unemployment rate, especially when we know that the rate is much greater in communities of color? True, people are finding work – that is a great thing; people are getting paid a little bit more per hour – that’s helpful, but as a whole, some economists are saying that the 80,000 jobs added in October aren’t enough to really make a major dent in the unemployment rate. And so while progress is a good thing, we can’t get too excited about a jobless rate that is still entirely too high.

What is truly needed is job creating legislation and that has to come through a bipartisan Congress willing to work together for the greater good of the country as opposed to the greater good of their political party. Just yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked a vote to debate an infrastructure repair bill. They didn’t even want to discuss it. This type of legislation is the same type of thing that the Republicans have introduced in the past. But now, because the President has introduced it, suddenly, the legislation can’t even be discussed on the Senate floor. Even if the legislation the President presented is different from the legislation that has been presented in the past, can’t there be a focus on the fact that the type of solution is the same and find common ground to ameliorate the issue? If two sides aren’t even willing to talk about a solution, how can a problem ever be solved?

On October 15th, National Action Network had upwards of 30,000 people in Washington in support of jobs and justice and even more who couldn’t attend in person, but followed the march on television, radio, and social media sites. In the time since the President announced the American Jobs Act, there has been little real progress in the fight for the American people. But it is up to us to make sure that we enforce our will and that Congress fights for us and not against each other. How many more days can we wake up hearing the same thing on the news, reading the same stories in the paper and reliving the same daily struggle? It’s time for us to move forward, to turn the calendar to the day when we really address the joblessness in this country, when Congress passes a jobs bill that will help people who are unemployed and underemployed while also helping rebuild communities across this country. This has to be a reality that we push for by calling and writing to members of Congress and by acting locally with members of our state and local governments. I want the groundhog to peek his head out and tell us that we’ll have an early spring where we will grow jobs and the economy. It’s time to end this political Groundhog’s Day.