The Most Important American Policy Issue

The recent spate of shootings makes us angry and we immediately focus on our national security. And we have the Middle East with one after another conflagration. Our concern is normal and we do urgently require action on terrorism, mental health, and gun reform. These are all significant issues that require national action. However, there is a much larger national issue that impacts far more Americans, but receives very little serious attention.

For a variety of reasons, we have millions of Americans beyond the system’s defined group of unemployed, who want to work, but are called “discouraged workers.” This means they are no longer technically looking for work so they don’t qualify to be defined as unemployed. In addition, there are categories of underemployed workers, temporary workers, and marginally attached workers. Together, these groups roughly equal the five percent unemployed group for a more realistic ten percent-unemployed proportion. And as a society, we must add in the two and a half million in American prisons as unemployed. These groups total about twenty million American people. Their unemployed or underemployed status limits their commitment to American society. In America, the job is the key to just about everything. It provides housing, food, clothing, car, healthcare insurance, childcare, entertainment, and self-esteem. No job means these people, their spouses, and their children live desperate lives.

Because of this large group’s lack of commitment to American society, many are willing to sell drugs, commit crime, prostitute themselves, join gangs, or even kill people. The lack of a job pushes many people into acts of extreme behavior. We must see the root cause of their behavior is not based in race, gender, or even parenting, but in economics. No job means extremely difficult financial choices. These people’s plight has largely been ignored in America. Capitalism means fend for yourself. Go find a job. This indifference has continued in our society despite the reality where millions of jobs have been sent overseas. Rather than point out the corporate culprits who sent the jobs away, we blame the victims. Why aren’t we targeting the corporations that sent jobs overseas with boycotts and staking out the corporate board member’s houses? Apple employs a million Chinese people. Why not get half of those jobs back in America?

The task of putting millions of American people to work, and not in prison, is our number one most important policy issue. The scale of the shattered lives of twenty million American people dwarfs all other issues. It is past time to reprioritize our national agenda to create good paying jobs for the American people. Creating millions of jobs is the solution to crime, gangs, prostitution, drugs, and the costs of prisons. We desperately need a concentrated national effort to create jobs for these people.

The time is ripe for a peaceful revolution that puts every American to work in a decent paying job. The baby boomers are retiring in record numbers. We have consistent economic growth creating more jobs. Now we need to go to American corporations and get them to bring back jobs from overseas. First, we need the president jawbone them. If that doesn’t work, we out the corporations that sent jobs overseas and board members in the specified corporations. Imagine the President pointing these culprits out in national speeches. Then, we work with local and state governments to provide deals on property taxes to incentivize bringing jobs back to America. Then, when we raise the minimum wage to fifteen bucks an hour, twenty million new workers will spend their money creating a substantial new increase in the American economy. They will also pay taxes and social security, pay for their healthcare, and childcare. The savings in closing prisons will be far more than paying back any minor costs of creating this new future.

The last piece of putting all Americans to work is preparing the workforce. We need national leadership to expand career academies in our high schools, as well as expanding job training in Adult Education and community colleges. We must face the reality that only thirty percent of the American population has a college degree and we don’t need any more, but we desperately need technically skilled people. Thus, we need jobs and job preparation. When you take the time to look at it, we have the ability to prepare our population for good jobs and the jobs will take care of most of society’s ills. The scale of millions and millions of unemployed Americans makes jobs and job preparation our most important national issue.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on
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