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We're Doing a Heckuva Job Helping Those Devastated by the Economic Meltdown

Like the levees in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the safety net is failing Americans battered by the 'Great Recession' of 2008-2009.

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The first step is an emergency relief package. We propose a roughly $400 billion relief package that will:

  • Create 1 million new public-sector jobs;
  • Cover the gaping state and local fiscal deficits;
  • Maintain existing jobs;
  • Bolster inadequate safety net programs like TANF and SNAP;
  • Extend and expand Unemployment Insurance and COBRA.

There are innovative ways to keep homeowners in homes threatened with foreclosure by allowing them to rent. Low-income families facing homelessness can be protected when landlords go into foreclosure by funding a national housing trust fund that can provide desperately needed affordable housing.

Such an emergency relief package is a necessity and it will have positive effects on the economy enabling a more robust recovery. We simply can’t afford not to do it.

The Institute for Policy Studies even suggests ways to pay for the package that involve progressive tax reforms. For example, we could raise up to $150 billion for new jobs simply by putting a penny tax on every $4 of stock trading transactions. We could save our economy and curb the reckless casino mentality that got us here in the first place.

Ultimately we need to reverse the trends of the past 30 years that have reduced wages, increased poverty, and grossly expanded the income gap between the rich and the rest of us in this country.

Such solutions would at least entail policies aimed at generating:

  • Full employment;
  • Affordable quality universal healthcare;
  • Childcare assistance for all who need it;
  • Increased access to affordable housing;
  • High-quality education from pre-school through college;
  • Reform of discriminatory and unjust law enforcement policies;
  • Paths to citizenship; and
  • Full enforcement of anti-discrimination laws at all levels of government.

Unless we act immediately to stop the bleeding and simultaneously begin the longer-term work of reversing the devastating trends of increasing poverty in this country, Katrina and the Great Recession will be only two of countless Category 5 storms that will leave our families, our communities and our nation tattered for generations to come.

Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus . She directs the Institute's Cities for Progress project. Diana Pearce is director of the Center for Women's Welfare at the Univ. of Washington's School of Social Work.