Last year, Republicans in the U.S. Senate refused to debate President Obama’s American Jobs Act. Even when split into its individual parts, all of which find enormous support in public opinion, obstructionist Republicans still refused. Yet to they could not refuse to vote on the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which institutes a number of policies to spur the training and hiring of returning veterans, which passed overwhelmingly last November.
Today, that one bright spot of compromise is paying dividends. The unemployment rate for post-Sept. 11 veterans dropped in June from 12.7 percent to 9.5 percent.
Let’s be clear: we didn’t get the good news we wanted in this month’s jobs report, released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the private sector continues to recover, ideologically-driven layoffs of teachers, police officers, and other public workers at the state level have dragged the overall economy down. The national unemployment rate is unchanged at 8.2 percent.
Let’s also be clear that overall unemployment for new veterans – as well as rates of alcoholism, homelessness, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide – are far too high for a country that claims to honor its veterans. At least 200,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are looking for work, a conservative estimate from the BLS.
But this drop in unemployment, 3.2 percent in just one month, is a sign that stimulative, collaborative policies like those in the VOW Act can be successful. Tax credits for companies who hire veterans and disabled veterans, increased funding for job training, and paying for an additional year of GI Bill benefits all translated into a better hiring environment. (And don’t forget AFL-CIO-supported programs like Helmets to Hardhats, which help returning veterans translate their skills to the construction industry.)
This isn’t rocket science. If it works for veterans, it can work for the rest of us too.
We need those policies contained in the American Jobs Act and the Bring Jobs Home Act: ending tax breaks for outsourcers, rewarding companies who insource, better job training programs, a national infrastructure bank, and an end to the constant, harmful, draconian layoffs of public workers at the state level.
We have workers who are ready to get back to work, and we have jobs that need doing. What’s standing in the way? Corporate-backed politicians who care more about dividing us and winning elections than actually getting our economy back on its feet.
And our saving grace is that that they work for us – not the other way around.