Jared Bernstein here again, the Executive Director of the task force and Chief Economist and Economic Policy Advisor to the Vice President. In the last month, thousands of you visited astrongmiddleclass.gov and shared your thoughts with the Middle Class Task Force on how we can get the American middle class back on its feet. You shared with us your own personal hardships, and you shared your ideas to address them. I want to go through again and highlight a few posts that struck me as I was reading through your responses.
Many of you wrote to us about your concern regarding the state of American education. Many people said, and I agree, that education is one of the keys to making America competitive in the world economy, and revitalizing the American middle class.
Karen from Newell, AL wrote "I am a school teacher in this very rural place…. This economic crisis is really hurting this little place. We will lose 7 teachers at my school which translates to increasing my class size from 15 to 20. This may not seem like much but it makes a big difference to students who need a lot of individual help. This is the only extra help some of my first graders get." Karen, thank you for all the work you do to educate our children and provide them with new opportunities. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is the largest investment in education in our nation’s history---to prevent teacher layoffs, make key education improvements and help make college affordable. It will help prevent devastating cuts to education like the one Karen described by providing $53.6 billion to states and school districts to prevent layoffs and cuts in critical education services and $25 billion in support for educating at risk students and those with special needs. In some places, that’s already happening. We need to prepare our children to succeed in a 21st century economy, and that starts with education.
Joyce from Lake Forest Park, WA wrote "I am concerned about how President Obama's stimulus package will help people in construction industries. New green jobs will be created, but how will this help engineers and architects keep and expand their businesses?"
This is a great question. The creation of green jobs is extremely important and will play a part in creating a sustainable future for ourselves and our children. Just this morning the Vice President swore in another member of our Task Force, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who has been one of the greatest champions of green jobs in the country for years. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will create or save 3.5 million jobs in America—75,000 in Joyce’s state alone. What we’re doing is making sure that state and local governments have the money to fund job-creating projects, like building and reinforcing roads, dams, and bridges; making public housing more energy efficient; and making improvements to affordable housing. These jobs won’t solely provide work for construction workers, they’ll also create more demand for engineers and architects to design the projects.
When the money is distributed at the state and local levels, we plan for it to be put to use where your community needs it most, whether you need teachers, firefighters, cops, paramedics, or bus drivers. President Obama put my boss, Vice-President Biden, in charge of overseeing the distribution of the funds that, among many things, will create jobs that will restore the prosperity of the middle class.
Finally, several people, like Keith from Sitka, Alaska suggested that the Task Force have something with "average, middle-class Americans in an open forum to listen to what problems they face and what solutions they can offer." Keith, at our next meeting in March, that’s exactly what we will be doing, listening to your stories and taking questions. I look forward to continuing this dialogue both in our task force meetings and here on the web.