Over 15 million people are out of work. The economic crisis has reinforced long-standing injustices, as women, Black workers, and low-income households have lost jobs at higher rates. Toxic pollution and escalating climate disasters are exacerbating threats to public health and economic security, especially in the communities of color and low-income communities hit hardest by the pandemic and the recession.
To tackle this economic crisis, we cannot simply reopen the economy and hope things return to “normal.” “Normal” was fundamentally unjust, unhealthy, and unstable. We have to do better than “normal.” We need to put millions of people back to work building a healthier, more equitable, clean energy economy that leaves no one behind.
As we work to achieve that goal, we don’t have the luxury of addressing just one of our society’s intersecting crises in isolation. And we don’t have to.
Our climate solutions are also our economic solutions. In fact, it would not even be possible to truly tackle the climate crisis without creating good jobs for the millions of workers who currently face unemployment. By focusing job creation and pollution reduction in the communities of color and low-income communities enduring economic exclusion, health threats, and climate disasters, we can combat environmental injustice and begin to close the racial wealth and income gaps.
To truly build back better, we need an economic renewal plan as big and interconnected as the crises we face.
Thankfully, we have such a plan. A new analysis from the Political Economy Research Institute reveals that an economic renewal plan that invests $1 trillion per year for 10 years would create over 15 million family-sustaining jobs—enough to end the unemployment crisis—while cutting climate pollution nearly in half by 2030 and confronting racial, economic, gender, and environmental injustice. At least 50 percent of those investments should go to the frontline communities that have endured decades of underinvestment due to systemic racism and economic injustice.
These 15 million new jobs would put people to work upgrading our infrastructure for clean water, affordable public transportation, and a reliable electric grid; expanding access to wind and solar power, electric vehicles, and clean and healthy buildings; protecting our wetlands and forests and supporting regenerative agriculture; and investing in care for children and the elderly.
The economic renewal package analyzed by the Political Economy Research Institute is based on the THRIVE Agenda—a plan to build an economy that fosters justice, not crisis. Backed by over 100 members of Congress and hundreds of union, racial justice, climate, and other grassroots groups, the THRIVE Agenda offers Congress an eight-pillar blueprint for economy-wide investments.
The new report details the number of jobs that would be created from investments in nearly 50 broadly supported programs. For example, a single program to exchange gas guzzlers for affordable, clean electric vehicles would yield over 635,000 jobs—nearly the entire population of Detroit. Over 225,000 additional workers could get jobs in programs to protect our wetlands and forests and to restore polluted Superfund sites and abandoned coal mines, supporting communities from Appalachia to the industrial Midwest. The list goes on.
The quality and accessibility of the jobs created through this economic renewal plan is just as important as the quantity of jobs. The report reveals that many of the sectors targeted for investments currently offer lower than average salaries, benefits, and union protections. To ensure that all workers have access to dignified livelihoods, the jobs created by a stimulus package must be bound by high-road labor standards that guarantee family-sustaining wages, health benefits, and access to unions.
The report also shows that without strong equity standards, the benefits of an economic stimulus would flow predominantly to white men, because many sectors slated for investment employ a disproportionately low number of Black or female workers. To curb racial and gender inequity instead of reinforcing the unjust status quo, employers must use equitable hiring practices that ensure job access for women and Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color.
To learn more about how Congress could create millions of family-sustaining jobs that foster greater equity, cleaner air and water, higher wages, healthier communities, and a more stable climate, check out the full report.