Twenty-five million people are in need of full-time work. This is a human, social and economic calamity; it cannot become the "new normal." It translates into despair for the young who are left out, broken families, declining wages and benefits, and the continued hemorrhaging of good jobs.
Time alone will not heal this economy. It wasn't working for most Americans before the Great Recession. Fundamental reforms are vital if we are to rebuild a broad middle class and recapture the American dream.
We can't cut our way to prosperity. The best deficit reduction program is to put people back to work. With corporations sitting on more than $1 trillion in cash waiting for customers, more tax breaks won't help. Americans — struggling with rising costs, stagnant wages, and declining home values — are tightening their belts. It is time for government to act.
We should take advantage of low interest rates to finance rebuilding America's infrastructure, increasing our global competitiveness and putting people to work. We should be expanding, not cutting, investments in education, innovation and new energy vital to our future.
Create a "green corps" in every region, hiring the young to retrofit buildings, providing hope while saving energy. Challenge China and mercantilist nations, move to balance our trade, and revive manufacturing in America. And we need to empower workers to gain a fair share of the profits they help generate, while curbing Wall Street's casino and creating incentives for Main Street investment.
When people go back to work, the deficits will decline. Then we can sensibly address the long-term sources of debt — primarily out-of-control health care costs and a tax code that favors wealth over work.
What we can't afford is inaction. The young are graduating from high school into the worst job market since the Great Recession. The broad middle class — central to what makes America exceptional — is being crushed. Political gridlock may block any action until the next election. But at the very least, voters should be given a clear choice of how we get out of the hole we are in.
We should forge the future that we want, not surrender to our fate.
Bob Borosage is co-founder of the Campaign for America's Future, a liberal strategy center.