When capitalism fails...a job should still be a right

It’s easier to get into Harvard than Wal-Mart. During the 2014 admissions process, Harvard University accepted 5.9% of freshmen who applied to that school. And Ivy-League rival Yale University accepted 6.3% of freshmen who applied. While those numbers are pretty low, there’s one number that’s a lot lower: Wal-Mart’s hiring rate. It's twice as hard to get a job at Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the US, and a company that rakes in nearly $1.8 million in profit every hour, than it is to get into Harvard.

As NBC Washington pointed out, when Wal-Mart came to the nation’s capital last year, the corporate behemoth received over 23,000 applications to fill the 600 jobs in its District of Columbia stores. Do the math and that translates to a hiring rate of just 2.6%. When a corporation that makes tens of billions in profits every year is hiring fewer people than Harvard University is accepting students, you know there’s a jobs problem in America. It’s time for that to change.

In his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944, FDR proposed his “Second Bill of Rights,” also known as “The Economic Bill of Rights.” One of the rights he proposed was - quite literally, just like the "right to free speech" - that every American should have the right to a job. Roosevelt said that every American should have, “The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation,” and, “The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.”

Roosevelt was so passionate about Americans having the right to a good, well-paying job, that he proposed amending the Constitution to include that right - right along the right to own guns and the right to a trial by jury. He understood that when capitalism fails to put Americans to work during times of economic downturn, it’s the government’s responsibility to step in and hire Americans. And FDR proved it worked, because that’s exactly what he did in the 1930’s with his New Deal policies and programs.

Under the New Deal, the Public Works Administration was one of many agencies he created. The PWA provided funding for infrastructure projects across the country, from government buildings and airports to hospitals and bridges. From 1933 to 1935 alone, the PAW spent over $3.3 billion in today’s dollars on over 34,000 projects, and thus put hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans to work.

The PWA was just one of the many ways that Roosevelt used our government to help put Americans back to work - a process that rebuilt the economy. But Roosevelt wasn’t the only president to spend billions putting Americans to work. Under President Eisenhower, the Interstate Highway System was born. From the birth of the program to today, construction costs have been estimated at around $489 billion in today’s dollars. Like the PWA, the Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System has put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work over the years.

When JFK came to Washington, he championed the creation of NASA, so that America could compete with the like of Russia when it came to sending men to the moon and exploring space. As of 2012, NASA employed around 18,000 people, not including the tens of thousands of contractor jobs that NASA has created. Even Reagan spent billions putting Americans to work.

Thanks to his proposed “Strategic Defense Initiative” otherwise known as “Star Wars,” over $538 billion in today’s dollars was spent on defense projects in 1987 alone, projects which directly and indirectly employed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Most recently, George W. Bush did it by spending hundreds of billions on defense contractors for his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

None of these guys called it a "right to work," and, in fact, they all pretended they weren't doing it. But even Republicans know that FDR was right. That's why they've worked so hard for six years in Congress to prevent President Obama from hiring Americans. They know it will work, it will fix the economy, and anything that might do that while he's president is something they've sworn to block.

The bottom-line is that every American should have the right to a good-paying job that lets them provide for themselves and their families. And we know that increased government spending puts Americans to work. It’s been tried and proven over and over again, by both Democrats and Republicans.

So, when capitalism fails, and Americans can’t find jobs in times of economic downturns and during times of high employment, our government needs to step up and create good jobs that put Americans back to work. And, when unemployment levels dip and the economy turns around, the government can dial back on the jobs, and let the private sector take over again.

It’s time to put Americans back to work, and make the right to a decent-paying job a reality.

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