By a large margin, Americans have told pollsters that job creation is more important than budget cuts. Yet Republican leaders are wedded to austerity and appear to think that high unemployment will hurt President Obama politically more than it will hurt them, so they will likely resist efforts to create jobs, no matter how great the need.
Without more jobs, both the economy and the budget will deteriorate further. It is past time for Mr. Obama to send a jobs plan to Congress that has popular appeal, one that he can use to try to shame Republicans. He will need cooperation from the Senate, which should bring one jobs-related bill after another to the floor, forcing its members to approve jobs initiatives or go on the record to show that they just don’t care.
The editorial focuses on one particular proposed jobs program: Fix America's Schools Today (FAST). Put together by Mary Filardo of the 21st Century School Fund, Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, FAST (PDF) points to the maintenance and repair needs of our aging school buildings, which are on average 40 years old, and how that dovetails with job creation:
A national project to address this backlog could create hundreds of thousands of jobs, including jobs for construction workers, building technicians, boiler repairmen, electrical workers, roofers, plumbers, glaziers, painters, plasterers, laborers, and tile setters. It could also lead to the direct hire of building maintenance workers to help slow or prevent the deterioration of buildings and building systems, while generating new savings through energy conservation.
Construction and building repair generally create 9,000‒10,000 jobs per billion dollars spent. Eliminating even half of the entire backlog and improvements could eventually create more than two million jobs, over a period of years. Addressing even one-tenth of the needed improvements could immediately create half a million jobs.
These repair needs are highly scalable and labor-intensive, as Jared Bernstein points out, and many are shovel-ready. It's a win-win-win: Kids no longer go to school in buildings plagued by mold, asbestos and lead in water; much-needed jobs are created; and many repairs would increase energy and water efficiency. It's an incredibly efficient and worthy use of government money, and one that will inject money into local economies around the country.
To comply with PAYGO, the FAST authors suggest eliminating fossil fuel preferences.