Saturday, April 02, 2011

We Need Jobs Now

You may not be aware that there is a campaign of fasting and prayer being led by a variety of faith groups to dramatize the spiritual and moral dimensions of the current budget debate. Jim Wallis of Sojourners offers 10 reasons that he is participating in this month long spiritual activism.

Given the power attributed to Fasting by Baha'u'llah spiritual implications of such an effort could be significant indeed: "Verily, I say, fasting is the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion." (Compilations, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)

As I've followed the news of this campaign, I've been thinking that faith leaders should be drawing similar attention to the urgent need to get Americans back to work. As I mentioned recently, the soul of unemployment is about meaning not just money and represents a spiritual crisis that needs to move from the margins to the mainstream of public discourse about this problem.

While the unemployment rate appears to have declined, the challenges facing the long-term unemployed remain. The Brookings Institution offers the following commentary:

"The impressive employment gains have reduced the ranks of the unemployed. The number of unemployed workers fell 131,000 (1%) in March, and the number has declined almost 1.7 million (11%) since the job market recovery got under way in early 2010. The unemployment rate has fallen 1 percentage point, to 8.8%, since November 2010. Very little of the decline has been due to a drop in the number of Americans in the labor force. In fact, the labor force participation rate has remained steady since the beginning of this year.

Unfortunately, the improvement in the job market has done little to reduce the ranks of the long-term unemployed. The March household survey shows that the number of Americans who have been unemployed for 6 months or longer increased almost 130,000 in March. The number of long-term unemployed was essentially the same in March 2011 as in December 2009, when the labor market recovery began. The number of long-term unemployed was almost 4.8 million higher than the number in December 2007, the last month of the 2002-2007 economic expansion." (Read the whole thing here)

Rev. Darren Cushman Wood recently framed the issue in refreshingly spiritual terms:

"... the cash is there. Last summer, the Federal Reserve reported that non-financial companies were holding on to $1.84 trillion in cash and other liquid assets. That’s right — trillions! This is a 36 percent increase over the previous year and the largest increase since 1952. Cash reserves made up 7 percent of all company assets, the highest percentage since 1963.

So why are they hanging on to all that cash instead of using it to create jobs? The answer is trust. No one trusts the recovery, Wall Street, the stimulus packages, or each other. The gods of Wall Street fell from grace a few years ago and now everyone is hanging on to their cash until Zeus returns.

Another kind of faith creates jobs. Faith in the biblical God demands the right use of our material resources in ways that uphold workers’ rights and advances the common good. Job creation is good stewardship of those cash reserves because it spreads the wealth around so everyone can benefit. We can afford to create good paying jobs, safe jobs, and dignified jobs. We do not have to make a choice between balancing state budgets and protecting workers’ rights, because the God who demands good stewardship is also a just God." (Read the whole thing here)

Can I get an Amen? It is way past time for those who helped contribute to the Great Recession to do their fair share to heal those hurt by it. We need jobs now. It's time for the American worker to get a bailout. This is what justice demands. The people are waiting and God is watching.

"The fundamentals of the whole economic condition are divine in nature and are associated with the world of the heart and spirit...When the love of God is established, everything else will be realized. This is the true foundation of all economics." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 238)