Americans are suffering.
The current recession has touched every community and, like many Americans, I fear that the effects are lingering.
The unemployment rate in the United States stands stubbornly at 9.1 percent, and in predominantly African-American communities, such as the one I represent, the unemployment rate is a staggering 16.7 percent.
Smart investments, such as the plan presented by President Barack Obama, will help our economy and communities recover.
I must admit that as a freshman lawmaker in Washington, I am frustrated. After a decade in the Florida Legislature, where even in the minority I was able to achieve legislative results, I am simply disappointed in the gridlock in Congress on important issues.
We absolutely must work together in order to help struggling Americans. President Obama took office in the midst of a national crisis that was not created overnight and, unfortunately, won’t be solved that quickly either. He is laying the groundwork for a fairer economy that restores economic security and he needs our help.
He cannot do this alone. He needs politicians to put country before party and ideology.
For years, Republican leaders have argued that job creation stems from giving more to the wealthiest and to the biggest corporations — at the expense of working families. Today, the Republican presidential candidates are proposing more of the same. We’ve tried that already, and it has not worked, certainly not in the communities I represent.
President Obama’s American Jobs Act contrasts sharply with Republican proposals. Instead of focusing on giving tax breaks to the rich, the president’s proposal extends a payroll tax cut to millions of working families, including nearly 20 million African-American families, letting them keep more of their paychecks. Similarly, his proposal provides America’s youth with training and subsidized jobs to help them jumpstart their careers. Unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed would also be extended, which assists with vital living expenses and stimulates local economies through consumer spending.
President Obama’s vision also contrasts sharply with that of many Republican governors throughout our country. For instance, in my own home state of Florida, Governor Rick Scott has refused to distribute $55 million in funding for school repairs and maintenance to any of our state’s 3,000 traditional public schools. This is simply unconscionable.
As a former elementary school principal and school board member, I know first-hand that the impact of the American Jobs Act would be felt strongly in our schools. Florida would receive $1.2 billion to rebuild and modernize its educational facilities, creating up to 16,600 jobs for construction workers and maintenance staff. In my district alone, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties could receive nearly $400 million from the Act, which Vice President Biden recently highlighted in a visit to one of our local elementary schools.
Our president knows that, in order to lift our country from this recession, it is critical to get every community working again — especially those that suffer the most. He understands that the success of our country is intimately tied to the success and growth of all of our communities.
It is time to work with the president in finding solutions that will put Americans back to work and foster a sustained economic recovery, and to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act now.
Rep. Frederica S. Wilson is a first-term congresswoman representing the 17th District of Florida, including Northern Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward Counties. She is a former elementary school teacher and member of the Miami-Dade County School Board and the founder of the 5000 Role Models for Excellence Project, a mentoring program for young males at risk of dropping out of school.