Monday, Sept. 5, 2011 | 2 a.m.
In boom times, Labor Day was a great time to enjoy a three-day weekend and the traditional end of summer. Over the past few years, that has not been the case. Labor Day has marked another year that the country has struggled economically and there haven’t been enough jobs.
This year, the state and the nation have seen a decrease in unemployment numbers since last year, but the numbers are still too high, and the economy remains skittish. Nevada has been one of the hardest hit states in the nation. The unemployment rate here is the highest in the nation, and the state has been hammered by the foreclosure crisis. Despite some signs of modest improvement, such as visitor counts increasing at McCarran International Airport, we have a long way to go to recover.
Americans need help from Washington, and in the past year, we have watched the situation in Congress go from bad to worse. Republican leaders have taken a maddening course. They have refused to honestly negotiate and instead blocked progress on important issues, as the debt-ceiling debate this summer showed. The Republican position pushed the country toward defaulting on its debt, led to a credit downgrade and sent the markets spinning.
Instead of trying to help workers, Republican leaders in Congress have made cutting the debt the major issue, and their effort has distracted the nation from the crucial issue of getting people back to work. It was no surprise that the economic report released Friday showed no net increase in jobs in August.
We need to cut the debt, but cutting alone won’t help the economy. Congress should take a balanced approach and make a long-term commitment to cutting debt. It should also work to stimulate the economy with strategic programs, such as transportation and infrastructure projects, that will create jobs.
Republicans have used the recession as an opportunity to try to force their ideological views on the country. They have mistaken the results of last year’s election, which resulted in a Republican majority in the House, as a sign that the American people agree with them. What people wanted were solutions that would help spur the economy.
That hasn’t happened. Republicans have zealously worked to cut budget programs that help the poor and the middle class. A year ago, we noted that Republican candidates were attacking programs such as unemployment benefits, saying they “spoiled” people and kept them from taking jobs. The fact that there weren’t jobs for people to take notwithstanding, such comments are insulting.
The American character is marked by a strong work ethic, and people want to see the economy recover. They want to see Congress do its job so they can get back to work.