Soaring Unemployment Underscores Need for Economic Recovery Bill

BURLINGTON, November 7 - Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called a Labor Department report today that unemployment in October rose to 6.5 percent "deeply disheartening" and said it dramatizes the need for Congress to invest at least $300 billion in an economic recovery package.

"In these very difficult economic conditions, doing nothing is not an option," Sanders told a press conference at his Senate office here. "When the Senate reconvenes on November 17, I intend to fight for an economic recovery program that is significant enough in size and scope to respond to the major economic crisis this country now faces," he said.

"If we can commit more than $1 trillion to rescue bankers and insurance companies from their reckless and irresponsible behavior, we certainly should be investing in millions of good-paying jobs that rebuild our nation and improve its economy," Sanders added. "In my view, the size of this economic recovery plan should be, at a minimum, $300 billion."

Sanders said the economic recovery package should improve the nation's crumbling infrastructure by rebuilding roads, bridges and public transportation, bringing water and sewer systems into the 21st century, and making high-quality Internet service available in every community in America. "Not only are these investments desperately needed, every billion dollars that we put into these initiatives will create up to 47,000 new jobs," Sanders said.

He also called for a commitment to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. "With a major investment, we can stop importing foreign oil and produce all of our electricity from sustainable energy within a decade, and substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "We can also make the United States the world leader in the construction of solar, wind, bio-fuel and geothermal facilities for energy production, as well as create a significant number of jobs by making our homes, offices, schools and factories far more energy efficient."

Especially in harsh economic times, Sanders added, all Americans should have access to primary health care and dental care, which can be achieved by substantially increasing funding for the highly-effective community health center program. The economic stimulus also should extend unemployment benefits, so that more than 1 million Americans do not run out of their benefits by the end of this year. It also should assure that no one in America, in these hard times, goes hungry or homeless.

Finally, with towns and states facing deep deficits, he called for a major, immediate financial commitment to states and municipalities. "Their crisis will only grow worse as homes are foreclosed, as incomes decline, and as fees on sales of homes and motor vehicles diminish. For too long, unfunded federal mandates have drained the budgets of states and communities. The strength and vitality of our communities must be restored," Sanders said.

The latest unemployment report by the government was the backdrop for Sanders' economic recovery proposal.

As the Bush administration sputters to an end, the number of unemployed increased last month by 603,000- for a total of 10.1 million unemployed - a 14 year high. In the last year alone of the Bush administration, unemployment has increased by 2.8 million, and the unemployment rate has risen by 1.7 percentage points. The figures do not include workers who want a full-time job but are working part-time or workers who have given up looking for work completely.