Last Monday, I noted that perhaps the time has come for the Philippines to have its own stress test to gauge the state of our country’s economic affairs and the impact of all the turbulence, contrived or otherwise, in and out of the country on the life of ordinary citizens. I suggested that the test protocol be patterned after the one used by non-government organization The Campaign for Americas Future, which successfully assessed the state of the economy in each of the US’ 50 states, checked on the problems affecting families and their communities, and proposed solutions moving forward. To better appreciate CAF’s work and its possible use in the Philippine setting, I am excerpting the main body of the research in this column.
It is my hope that we will find this useful to help us make responsive and responsible answers to the conundrum we are all in, the measures needed to ease the pain and, yes, the apprehensions and the fears which will definitely slow down our efforts to lift us from out of the cycle of poverty and underdevelopment.
The Campaign for America’s Future Stress Test: A summary
“The Stress Test” shows trouble across the board. It shows flat wages and rising costs. It shows more people without health insurance and the neglect of such established public responsibilities as state support for college education. It demonstrates overall economic mismanagement and it quantifies the general level of stress in this historically optimistic country.
What “The Stress Test” Measures
Unemployment rates and changes in unemployment rates
Changes in the number of goods-producing and service-providing jobs
Changes in available construction jobs
Changes in available manufacturing jobs
Changes in average weekly wage
Costs and quality of life
People without health insurance, per 1,000 residents; rate and change over time; overall and employer-based
Population spending 25 percent of pre-tax income on health care; rate and change
Public college tuition as a percentage of income; rate and change over time
Bankruptcy, per capita; rate and change over time
Foreclosures, per capita
Average price of gas, change over time
To relieve this economic stress, this report shows, we need a new economic strategy. We need to stop using tax dollars to bail out Wall Street bankers and start using public money to benefit the struggling middle class. This means the creation of new, good jobs here at home and a strategy for retaining knowledge and technology in America. We need to expand public investment in infrastructure as well as human capital in order to ensure the safety and well-being of all Americans. This includes investment in roads, bridges, education and health care. These reforms are the foundation for a new economy in which all Americans benefit.
The elements of the new direction include:
New Energy for America
We should launch a concerted drive for energy independence, and put people to work building a green economy.
A National Strategy in the Global Economy
We need a clear strategy for our nation in the global economy. The first step out of the hole we are in is to stop digging. No more NAFTAs, no more trade accords written by and for multinational corporations and banks.
Invest in People and Basics that Work
We need to ensure our children have access to the best education in the world: universal pre-kindergarten, smaller classes in earlier grades, challenging after-school programs, and affordable college or advanced training. Invest in repairing roads and bridges, sewage systems and school buildings, ensuring that the jobs created are good jobs.
Health Care for All
We need to revive the American Dream and help working families with the basics. We should start with health care reform, providing for all a guaranteed choice of health care, just as members of Congress have. Provide every business and individual with the option of either keeping their current private plan, if they like it, or the ability to buy into a high-quality public plan.
We need to correct the imbalance between the top floor and the shop floor to ensure that profits and productivity are widely shared. Raise the floor—increase the minimum wage, guarantee workers paid sick days and family leave. Empower workers to organize, pass the Employee Free Choice Act, turn the National Labor Relations Board back into a watchdog for workers.
Pass comprehensive immigration reform, gain control of our borders and enforce fair labor standards so employers can’t exploit undocumented workers.
Americans have a right to know how we can build a sustainable economy. Presidential candidates need to address the issues that are relevant to working Americans, refocusing national attention from the wants of Wall Street to the needs of Main Street. We can begin to relieve Americans’ economic stress by challenging candidates and elected officials to support and promote real solutions to real economic problems.