Regardless of your political inclinations, Obama’s speech last night shows a distinct care for issues predominantly affecting men.
The American Jobs Act provides a “Returning Heroes” tax credit of between $5,000 and $9,600 to encourage businesses to hire returning veterans. In addition, it will prevent many layoffs among police officers and firefighters. For both biological and social reasons, men are most likely to take dangerous jobs that involve protecting people– whether in the military or at home. The least we can do is help insure that they can remain employed.
Obama also intends to reform unemployment insurance. The American Jobs Act will extend unemployment benefits, provide tax credits to businesses that hire long-term unemployed people, make discriminating against the unemployed illegal, and promote state programs to help the long-term unemployed, such as reemployment assistance and training, “Bridge to Work” programs that allow them to collect unemployment insurance while in training or doing temporary work and start-up assistance.
As we know, unemployment and subsequent loss of self-worth from work, “success object” status and the ability to provide for their families hits men extremely hard; for some, it may result in depression or even suicide. This is compounded, because men are still more likely to be unemployed than women: 9.6% of men over the age of sixteen are unemployed, as compared to 8.5% of women.
However, what is perhaps the most male-oriented aspect of Obama’s jobs bill is his support for unemployed construction workers. Construction workers, a predominantly male profession, are one of the hardest-hit professions, with an astonishing 13.2% unemployment rate (down from 16.3% last year). The bursting of the housing bubble led to a drought of new construction, which left hundreds of thousands of construction workers without even the possibility of a job.
Obama intends on expanding and improving our nation’s infrastructure. 35,000 public schools are up to renovation; $50 billion will be spent on highways, transit, rail and aviation; $15 billion will be invested in hiring construction workers to rehabilitate vacant and foreclosed-on homes; $10 billion will create a National Infrastructure Bank to encourage future infrastructure projects. These programs could put hundreds of thousands of construction workers to work.
Of course, I have no doubt that our blog contains a diversity of opinions about the American Jobs Act. If you’re American, you can contact your congresspeople about the American Jobs Act here (House) and here (Senate).