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The Answer to Unemployment

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By Gary L. Flowers

Last week, Congressman John Conyers (MI), Ranking Member of the United States House Judiciary Committee introduced much-needed legislation entitled, “The Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act.” The bill number for the Act is House Resolution 4277/870. Congressman Conyers’ Act directly addresses American’s need to work and our current economic crisis, but also embodies the spirit of the original Humphrey-Hawkins “Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act” of 1978.

In short, the Act would tax stock and bond trades on Wall Street to finance a fund to create jobs for the jobless.

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% of revenues deposited in the job-creation account, and 33% going to the job-training account.

First, 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 officials, 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. New jobs would include: • Up to 30 hours per week
• Pay prevailing wages, averaging $12-15 per hour, with benefits Appropriate safeguards and strong anti-displacement protections would help to prevent substitution and ensure that workers are placed in jobs.

Secondly, funds would be distributed to existing programs covered under The Workforce Investment Act for job-training programs, including 1-Stop Job Training Programs and the Job Corps. Each account would be established through a tax on Wall Street financial speculation such as stock and bond trades. The financial transactions tax would cover: • Tax rate on each transaction would be ¼ of one percent—0.25%
• Tax rate for Futures Contracts to buy/sell specified commodities at market prices would by 0.02%
• Tax rate for Swaps of financial instruments between two firms—0.02%
• Tax rate for Credit Default Swaps where a contract is swapped through a series of payments in exchange for a payoff if credit instrument (loans) goes into default—0.02%
• And contracts between a buyer and a seller that gives buyer the right to buy/sell asset on or before expiration date (Options) at an agreed price

All evidence for America’s current poor economy points to un-regulated and un-enforced laws of the greedy, which disproportionately affected the needy. Therefore, Congressman Conyers’ legislation is needed now to put America back to work.

We should all contact our Congressional representatives to support H.R. 4277/870.

Gary L. Flowers is the Executive Director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.

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