WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 - As President Barack Obama prepares for a Thursday address on jobs to a joint session of Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called today for putting Americans back to work through a series of bold measures that include rebuilding the country's crumbling infrastructure.
As part of a four-point plan to jumpstart the economy, Sanders also said the federal government should do more to help cash-strapped states and local governments that have been forced to furlough teachers, firefighters, police officers and other workers. He advocated transforming our energy system with job-creating investments in renewable and sustainable energy sources. And he called on Congress to reconsider so-called free-trade policies that have decimated manufacturing in the United States.
"While everyone understands that we have got to reduce the deficit, the number one challenge America faces right now is a jobs crisis," Sanders said, noting that 25 million Americans, 16 percent of the workforce, are today either unemployed or underemployed.
"Creating the millions of new jobs that we desperately need is not only vitally important to our economy but will be the means by which we reduce the deficit over the long term."
The centerpiece of Sanders' plan for putting millions of Americans back to work is his call for infrastructure investment. "Everyone in Vermont and across the country understands that we can put millions of Americans back to work rebuilding the nation's bridges, roads, schools, dams, culverts, rail systems and public transportation, among other vital needs," Sanders said. "We also need to build new infrastructure: every community in the nation needs high speed Internet access, most need new water or sewage plants, and our antiquated electric grid needs to be redesigned and rebuilt."
Other critical elements of a successful jobs plan would transform energy systems, reform trade policies and help states and local governments.
"We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. A significant number of jobs can be created through weatherization, and the manufacturing of American-made wind turbines, solar panels, and heat pumps," Sanders said.
"We must also make fundamental changes in our trade policy so that we rebuild our manufacturing sector. Corporate America must invest in the United States and stop the outsourcing of jobs to China, Vietnam, and other low-wage countries."
Under current tax laws, the United States rewards companies that move manufacturing jobs overseas. "If we ended the absurdity of providing tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, the Joint Tax Committee has estimated that we could raise more than $582 billion in revenue over the next 10 years."
As the president and Congress refocus on jobs, Sanders said it also is critically important that a new congressional super committee assigned to cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion eliminate those tax breaks and other tax loopholes for the wealthy and large corporations.
He also stressed that he would oppose any efforts by the super committee to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.