When the White House’s jobs summit kicks off on Thursday, America’s largest labor federation wants President Obama to put real money where his mouth is. During a conference call on Wednesday the AFL-CIO’s chief international economist, Thea Lee, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and economist James K. Galbraith called for massive employment programs that Lee estimated would total $400-$500 billion. “We need to create three million jobs every year for five years to get back where we were [before the financial crisis],” said Galbraith.
The overwhelming message of the call, convened by Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal policy organization, was that an unemployment rate over 10 percent is too high to fight with half-measures. “We could sit around and do nothing and wait for the private sector to create the jobs, but I think we’d be waiting a long time,” said Lee. “One of the things we can’t do is act small…. I don’t think we can have an economic recovery—I don’t think it can be sustained—if people are out of work for years at a time.”
An investment on the scale that Lee and Galbraith are proposing is going to be incredibly tough to get through Congress. But Galbraith argued that the White House needs to follow the “political model” of the Reagan tax cuts: Do something so big that people can’t help but notice.