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As Poverty Rate Rises and Unemployment Persists, Americans Need a New “New Deal”

C. Nicole Mason – Assistant Professor, Robert F. Wagner ; Graduate School of Public Service at NYU Posted: 9/13/11 04:32 PM ET

For many, big government is a four-letter word, but newly released poverty and income data signal the need to invest in large-scale programs and initiatives that have the potential to turn the country around. Quickly.

The federal government and the administration have to do more, not less. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the president’s most recent job creation legislation will not be enough to penetrate this seemingly impenetrable national crisis.

In the last ten years, median household income has declined 7 percent and the number of people living in poverty has increased to 47 million, the largest in over half a century. For racial and ethnic minorities, the statistics are stark. The unemployment rate for African-Americans is a record 16.7 percent and for Latinos it is 11.3 percent. Over the last three years, the situation for many working Americans has gotten worse, not better.

Not since the Great Depression have the earnings and unemployment numbers been so dismal. In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt boldly overhauled many social programs and invested heavily in initiatives to create jobs and ease the financial strain not only for individuals, but for states as well. The trillion-dollar question is: what should be done today?

We need a bold set of new policies and initiatives rooted in today’s economic reality, not that of 40 years ago. Heavy investments in infrastructure, education and our social safety net system will be critical to creating pathways out of poverty rather than a bridge to nowhere.

We need more than snickers and hisses from Congress and fiscally conservative Republicans to get the country back on its feet. Tea Partiers, for all of their anti-government rhetoric, have failed to provide a sensible alternative to government intervention. The country can no longer afford this wait-and-see approach to recovery. I’ve seen. I’ve waited. It’s not working.

Americans need a New Deal. It’s up to the president and Congress to deliver us one.

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