U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D–Mo.) recently opened Better Family Life’s first Pathways Out of Poverty Green Jobs Symposium with a call for both major political parties to put partisanship aside and focus on job creation as a matter of great national urgency.
“In my 28 years in public service, I have never seen the need for jobs as urgent as it is today,” Clay said.
He referenced high unemployment numbers, especially in the black community.
“While the national unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent, more than 16 percent of African Americans are looking for work,” Clay said.
“Much pain is behind those numbers, including a failed system of urban education, too little investment in worker retraining, a tax policy that still rewards corporations who outsource good American jobs overseas, and the very real legacy of inequality and exclusion that perpetuates a lack of diversity in the economic life of our nation.”
The Green Jobs symposium, which Better Family Life, Inc. convened at the Metropolitan Training and Education Center in Wellston, brought together over 70 local elected officials, state legislators, labor leaders and community activists to form a united front to combat urban employment that has reached crisis levels.
“My fight is about jobs for this community, where the pain is great and the hardships are so widespread,” Clay said. “The truth is that when urban communities hurt, America hurts. And what elevates us lifts up the entire nation.”
The crisis-level unemployment statistics are just one of many indicators that the economy remains slow to recover from the recession precipitated by the bursting of the housing bubble and the debacle that ensued, with poorly regulated mortgage-backed securities bringing down the banking and financial sectors.
“The reasons for this slow recovery are many. And they are part of a broader, much more complex problem – when some elected officials put their politics ahead of their country,” Clay said.
“When Congress returns, all of us should focus on how to simultaneously make investments that are going to grow jobs while we put everything on the table to reduce spending in an honest and open way.”
The U.S. Senate returned to session on Tuesday, and Clay and his fellow members of the U.S. House returned to work on Wednesday. Clay spoke as if hopeful that Congress will wrest the agenda away from Republicans who have managed to elevate the debt ceiling and spending cuts as the major issues facing the nation, despite catastrophic unemployment numbers and a moribund economy.
“In the coming months, we will ask wealthy Americans who have done extremely well, even during this recession, to put something in the pot too,” Clay said.
“We can’t balance this budget on the backs of seniors, working people, at-risk children and minorities, who have already borne the worst of this recession. This is a time for shared sacrifice by all.”
Unlike some of his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, however, Clay did not question the leadership of President Barack Obama in navigating the jobs crisis.
“I support President Obama’s pro-jobs, pro-growth agenda to help America out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” Clay said. “And that’s why green jobs, and the St. Louis Green Impact Zone is so important.”