Establishing Policy Priorities

Guest Columnist | 11/20/2012, 10:04 a.m.

Now that the 18-month, nearly $2 billion 2012 election for president of the United States of America is over, President Obama is set to begin his second term in January. However, the question of policy priorities by the White House and Congress begs an immediate and beneficial answer for the dispossessed, downsized, and downtrodden (also known as hard-working, ordinary Americans and their children).

Of course, politics can be defined as who gets what, when, and how much.

In the coming weeks as Congress has to decide on issues of spending and taxing. Members should deliberate the issues of employment, housing, education, and voting rights.

While the "official" national unemployment rate is listed as 7.8 percent, that number does not include the 8 million Americans who have stopped looking for a job, thus increasing real unemployment to 20 percent. Moreover, in communities of color, the unemployment rate ranges from 20 percent to 60 percent. Both the private sector and government must take bold steps to put American back to work.

While providing tax breaks for small businesses is a start, they alone are woefully insufficient. Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, has a sensible legislative answer: ttax the purveyors of pain on Wall Street, whose greedy actions destabilized the American economy and many others around the world. House Resolution 4277 would tax all stock and bond trades at .25 percent in order to generate approximately $150 billion.

The "Full Employment and Training Trust Fund" would create two accounts to directly fund job creation and training programs. Monies taxed from Wall Street transactions would be distributed to each account, with 67 percent of revenues deposited in the job-creation account, and 33 percent going to the job-training account.

Job-creation funds would be allocated based on the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) formula, modified to consider unemployment data. The U.S. Department of Labor would collaborate with local elected officials, labor leaders, and community groups, who are closest to the needs of our communities on the ground, to identify workers for each project. Americans in need of a job would work on construction projects, renovating school buildings, weatherizing homes, neighborhood beautification, expanding access to broadband and wireless Internet, and other jobs. The program would be open to those who are unemployed for at least 26 weeks, or low-income individuals who have been unemployed for at least 30 days.

As we employ Americans we must protect their housing. The White House and Congress should place an immediate moratorium on home foreclosures. Make permanent the 9 percent tax credit as set out in the Housing and Economic Act of 2008, allowing stability in tax credit market by increasing affordable rental units and jobs. Maintain Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) grant funding levels to ensure first-time homeowner programs and the building of affordable rental housing. Appropriate funds to cover existing Section 8 vouchers in order to prevent increased homelessness. Increase VASH Vouchers for veterans' housing as they transition from active duty. And restore Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's authority to help secure affordable housing for stable family and rental housing.