It is time for the government to take more direct action to stem the tide of joblessness that is hampering the recovery and demolishing the hopes of millions of unemployed workers.
A tax credit to encourage employers to create new jobs or extend hours worked is just the kind of direct subsidy that worked so well with the cash-for-clunkers program. That was about cars. This is about jobs and people, an unquestionable priority. The moral imperative to act aggressively is clear.
One proposal would provide companies with a $4,000 credit, paid out over two years, for every employee hired. Another proposal by the Economic Policy Institute, a research group, would provide a two-year credit worth twice the first-year payroll tax for each new hire. This could amount to several thousand dollars, depending on the salary of the new employee.
Tax credits would add another weapon to the government's arsenal in its battle against joblessness. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is providing billions of dollars in direct grants for shovel-ready jobs to rebuild America's highways and bridges and to jumpstart efforts in alternative energies like wind and solar power.
Tax credits could encourage job creation in industries that do not now receive money under the economic stimulus.
Recent signs of recovery and those who say the recession is over are cold comfort for the millions who are still searching for work or have stopped looking. For many, their world is bound by paying the bills and raising families.
As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote recently, "America needs jobs now, and if the economy on its own is incapable of putting people back to work - which appears to be the case - then the government needs to step in with aggressive job-creation efforts. "
Franklin Roosevelt knew what was at stake. The man who helped launch a massive public works program told a Depression-burdened nation in his first inaugural that "Our greatest primary task is to put people to work," a job he compared to the "emergency of a war."
We could all take a lesson from FDR.