Inslee should step up for jobless | As It Turns Out | June

Dear U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee,

I attended your recent town hall meeting in Kingston. We appreciate your coming up our way and value your interaction. But may I be candid?

I was most anxious to hear what you would say about jobs and unemployment, yet I felt little more informed after the meeting.

You briefly addressed creating jobs through a clean energy project when asked about new jobs. When I got home, I searched your website and found nothing at all under either jobs or unemployment. I ended up consulting Sen. Maria Cantwell’s website and found information on three federal stimulus grants for clean energy technology and job training.

If I read correctly, Kitsap County is eligible for only one of the three grants, a shared “$3.88 million grant for an energy training partnership, culminating in 473 jobs, and all divided between King, Snohomish, Pierce and Clallam counties. The SEED project in Kitsap will involve Puget Sound Energy and Olympic College.”

Perhaps I somehow missed your addressing any other current efforts in creating jobs because these projects, however worthy, won’t go far at all. It is crucial that lawmakers follow through on their promises to increase employment. District 1, and most particularly the jobless of District 1, is anticipating more immediate action from you, our congressional representative.

As you know, more than 8 million American jobs have been wiped out by the recession since it began in December 2007. Add to that the standard growth of the workforce and we end up with more than 11 million people who are without jobs. The April economy was able to muster 290,000 jobs, which was wonderful news. However, according to economist Robert Kuttner in The American Prospect, “it will take a half million new jobs every month for the next four years, just to return to the prerecession unemployment rate of 2006.”

Representative Inslee, how do we come to terms with the fact that many lost jobs will most likely never come back?

“Millions of workers who have already been unemployed for months, if not years, will most likely remain that way even as the overall job market continues to improve, economists say. The occupations they worked in, and the skills they currently possess, are never coming back in style. And the demand for new types of skills moves a lot more quickly than workers […] are able to retrain and gain those skills. There is no easy policy solution for helping the people left behind. The usual unemployment measures — like jobless benefits and food stamps — can serve as temporary palliatives, but they cannot make workers’ skills relevant again,” wrote Catherine Rampell, New York Times, May 12.

Yet here they are, a significant number of Americans who are caught in unemployment purgatory. The unemployed need either a job or they need unemployment benefits. Without either there is only devastating economic insecurity, only poverty.

Politics and reasons why the jobless find themselves that way no longer matter to them. Politics and reasons no longer matter to their grocers, their creditors, or their families. What matters to the unemployed is how to get through today, this week, this month.

The unemployed are again and again in the middle of a congressional fiasco, with their futures being bandied about by preoccupied politicians. The priority should be getting Americans back to work, instead President Barack Obama and congress are debating everything else while placing the unemployed on the back burner.

On June 2, hundreds of thousands, probably millions, will begin losing unemployment benefits if congress doesn’t act. Representative, please help bring about more focus on addressing the expansion of unemployment benefits of up to 99 weeks for those suffering the most from the worst recession in decades, the new poor.

We ask for federal spending better aimed toward job creation. We ask for better legislation. We ask for extensions of unemployment benefits. These are the bare essentials for getting America’s economy back on level ground.

Respectfully yours,

Marylin Olds

June 6UPDATE: Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support of the Committee on Ways and Means, has announced a special hearing on the long term unemployment problem to be held on, June 10, 2010. The advisory can be read here and may be watched online.