The American Jobs Act
President Biden’s first big piece of legislation, the American Rescue Plan, is already delivering very substantial help to low-income communities and communities of color. Now, the President is releasing his Build Back Better proposals - first, the American Jobs Plan; and, in the weeks to come, the American Families Plan.
The American Jobs Plan aims to foster just and sustainable prosperity. The plan is designed to strengthen America’s competitiveness and economic growth, and it is focused on improving job opportunities for low-income workers. The proposed public investments, mainly in infrastructure, would also reduce the ongoing U.S. contribution to climate change - by installing charging stations for electric cars on highways across the country, for example.
We tend to think that economic growth, help for people in need, and protection of the environment are competing goals. But Biden’s team has put together a strategy that pursues all three goals at the same time.
Our country hasn’t made much progress against poverty for decades, mainly because wages have been pretty much stagnant. The Jobs Plan that Biden announced last week features strategies to improve the EARNED INCOME of relatively low-income workers:
Lots of well-paid, union jobs. The companies that implement the Plan’s massive investment in infrastructure would be required to pay decent wages and allow people to join unions. The availability of these good-paying jobs would put upward pressure on wages in other sectors. The increase in union membership would stem the decline in U.S. labor unions, thus strengthening the power of workers to defend their interests.
Universal broadband Internet. This will powerfully boost businesses in low-income areas, especially depressed rural areas. More high-income people will move to rural areas to live and work.
Public transportation between low-income communities and employment centers. In most cities, people who live in low-income neighborhoods have a hard time getting to the parts of town where the jobs are.
An expansion of labor-law enforcement. There is now very little enforcement of labor laws, so abuses such as wage theft are widespread.
Expanded job training and apprenticeship programs.
Rapid growth of the economy and job market. Almost everybody benefits when the economy is growing, and the overall state of the economy is of pressing importance to low-income Americans. It’s especially tough to be poor when unemployment is high.
While the American Jobs Plan would fund a wide array of much-needed infrastructure improvements, 40 percent of the investment in infrastructure would target disadvantaged communities - the replacement of all lead pipes, for example, and the construction or rehabilitation of 2 million houses and commercial buildings. The Plan also includes provisions to address structural racism, notably the earmark of some of the R&D money for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The tax cuts of 2017 reduced the corporate tax rate from 28% to 22%. To pay for the public investments in the American Jobs Act, the rate would return to 28%.
Thirteen religious leaders from all the families of U.S. Christianity sent the President a letter about what we think should be included in Build Back Better legislation. These leaders represent church bodies and organizations that include almost 100 million people.
One of our recommendations in the letter is to roll back the 2017 tax cuts, “Our shared conviction on this controversial point is grounded in Jesus’ teaching, ‘From those to whom much has been given much will be required.’” We also noted that the wealth of the nation’s highest income people and hunger among U.S. children have both soared during the pandemic.
The letter from church leaders concludes, “The Hebrew prophets were clear that nations sometimes need to make big changes, and we think now is such a time.”