We are facing modern serfdom

The national unemployment rate may be at a record low, but underemployment is a systemic and severe problem in our country. Almost all of the new jobs that were created after the 2008 financial crisis have been low-paying freelance, temporary, or part-time jobs. An employed workforce with a living wage, training, health insurance, pensions, social security, and worker protections has been replaced by a contract workforce performing gigs. The gigs often require low skills, pay low wages, and provide zero benefits. Almost half of all American workers will be in the gig economy within a few years. As a society, we face the specter of permanent underemployment.

The winners of our new economy are large corporations while the losers are American workers and the middle class. Large corporations are drastically increasing their profits by avoiding living wages, training, health insurance, pensions, social security, and worker protections. Meanwhile, Americans workers and the middle class are subsidizing such profits by shouldering lower wages, higher educational costs, higher healthcare costs, and poverty in retirement. Most Americans are unable to save for even simple emergencies, and even Americans with good jobs are often a serious illness or a layoff away from financial ruin. We have to end the era of modern serfdom.

Several cities in our Congressional district already have some of the highest unemployment rates in America. Unemployment will likely increase because of automation, artificial intelligence, and globalization. Our economy is suffering the consequences of a comprehensive decline in our educational system, and the only way to catch up is to invest in ourselves.

Invest in people

We must drastically fund education from pre-Kindergarten to near-retirement. We must fully fund our public schools for our children. Public colleges, public graduate schools, and trade schools should be free regardless of income. We need to increase apprenticeship and sectoral training programs. The federal government must coordinate transitioning unemployed and underemployed Americans into high-quality Green New Deal jobs. We must encourage women to pursue high-paying professions by enacting a universal childcare program and by making sure women and men are paid the same wage for the same job. We must provide every American with the tools to succeed if we want to economically compete with the rest of the world.