A jobs agenda for all communities, for one nation

By U.S. Rep. Karen Bass

When President Obama addressed the nation last Thursday, he spoke in unifying terms, in language that appealed to all segments of our population. It was national in nature, bipartisan in conception and very sober about the reality we all face as a people.

The president’s job agenda speech was rooted in themes that speak to everyday working people, the communities that make up the backbone of our economy and the wellspring from which recovery will begin. And that starts in Culver City.

To small business owners, President Obama spoke of cutting taxes to empower job creation, hiring and growth. To middle-class families, he discussed how more money could be put in our working families’ pockets through tax cuts. To teachers laid off from work because of state budget cuts, to our veterans returning from war, to our first responders and construction workers who are rebuilding our bridges and roadways, our president spoke of putting people back to work. To the unemployed, the president spoke of supporting our families while they look for work and not continue the mean-spirited policies of some state governments that punish the unemployed.

From the epicenter of Washington, D.C.’s most powerful podium, within the iconic U.S. House of Representatives, President Obama spoke to the nation about our future; ideas that are Democratic and Republican in origin.

In our community, it was a speech that was listened to intently, for we are experiencing this Great Recession in an intense and ongoing way. After a period of economic gains, as our middle class grew most especially during the Clinton years, much of these positive developments were wiped away during this recession.

The speech was met with cautious optimism from some Republican leaders in Congress, and yet the naysayers will always find a way to attack President Obama simply because his ideas, no matter how bipartisan in nature, came from the Democratic president.

While House Speaker John Boehner said the Obama plan “merits consideration,” the Republican caucus continues to throw sticks and stones. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told The Hill newspaper, “If we find a window (to finding common ground), we can maybe do some things together. Beyond that, I will tell you that it’s going to be important just to hang on and get a new president and a new configuration in Congress.”

We, as a community of conscience and concern cannot allow that type of political mischief to prevent an ambitious jobs agenda from slowing our country down. The usual divide-and-conquer gamesmanship that our political opponents like to play has no place in this discussion; for with our economy on shaky ground, this is not a time for games.

To pass the Obama agenda, we must let Speaker Boehner know that obstruction of this ambitious jobs agenda by him or his unruly caucus is not acceptable.

We need a president and a Congress to stand for extension of unemployment benefits for families looking for work. We need to rebuild our schools and invest in neighborhoods devastated by the foreclosure crisis. Our schools, roads, rail, transit and airports need expanding and modernization. For our youth, a long-awaited program to support a summer and year-round jobs program is essential. Tax cuts that slash employer payroll taxes in half can spur investment and hiring.

These are not ideas that target our community, but rather, policies that support an entire nation. Rising unemployment, a foreclosure crisis and downsizing of our small businesses is not localized to one community or region. It is a national crisis and President Obama offered a corresponding solution.

President Obama has asked us to reach out to members of Congress and demand action. He’s right. We should and we must.

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) represents the 33rd Congressional District, which includes Los Angeles and Culver City. She served as the Speaker of the California Assembly.