But that’s the wrong approach.
Undoubtedly, jobs are needed. Unemployment is deadly and too prevalent. But recent research from the Associated Press shows that just as deadly — if not more so — is the number of Americans who work in low-wage jobs that can neither sustain a middle-class family nor rescue one from the depths of poverty.
U.S. poverty numbers are increasing on the eve of the November presidential elections; the rate was 15.1 percent in 2010, and it’s expected to rise this fall. AP’s research indicates poverty levels are rising in virtually all demographic groups and all parts of the country, though some are worse than others. Most telling is that poverty levels are expected to remain above pre-recession levels of 12.5 percent for years, experts and Census data say.
Oh, and about those jobs?
“The problem is that the tidal wave of low-wage jobs is dragging us down and the wage problem is not going to go away anytime soon,” said Peter Edelman, director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy.
That “tidal wave of low-wage jobs” can be seen in Alabama, where mayors, the Legislature and the governor are quick to tout how often they bring jobs to the state. The industries that often create low-wage jobs — restaurants, stores and hotels, for instance — contribute to a town’s tax base, which puts money in a city’s bank account.
But voters should ask: Considering these facts, isn’t it time we concentrate on recruiting industries that enable their employees instead of inhibit them? For every Alabama success — such as the recent Airbus announcement in Mobile — there are countless examples of new businesses that feature minimum-wage salaries.
A job is better than no job; but jobs, unlike man, aren’t created equal. Alabama’s politicians need to admit that.