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'Let's go get the money!' (The Workplace and Solutions to Rebuilding America)(address by Jesse Jackson at the National League of Cities' Congress of Cities convention)

"With a trillion dollars in public pension funds, we could take ten percent of public pension funds over ten years--that's $100 billion . . .," Rev. Jesse Jackson proposed as part of his formula for financing the rebuilding of America. Jackson addressed the Closing General Session of the Congress of Cities.

He also discussed 1992 political strategy with members of the National Rainbow Coalition, the progressive political organization he founded and heads.

"The past ten years of public policy have been driven by a set of false assumptions and attacks on our real economic strengths," Jackson declared. "These attacks have hit our cities the hardest."

He decried the 75 percent reduction in federal funding for urban programs and loss of three million manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

Jackson posed four questions:

* Where did the money go?

* Where did the jobs go?

* How are we going to get them back?

* Where is the cities' power?

"While we went running down the highway chasing the welfare queen [whom former President Ronald Reagan blamed in part for federal deficits, according to Jackson] ... the S&L thieves backed up with tractor trailers and stole the whole nation blind," he said.

Reagan administration attacks on the public sector, while aimed at "welfare queens," in reality brought layoffs of public employees, such as librarians and police officers, Jackson said.

Tax breaks for the wealthiest one percent of the population cost government $80 billion in lost revenue, while foreign-controlled American corporations pay little in taxes.

The most dramatic evidence, he said, is that Fortune 500 companies have not created any new jobs since 1980, even though executive salaries have increased dramatically.

U.S. corporations have used tax incentives to ship jobs overseas as a means of exploiting cheap labor and lax environmental standards. "There are no American-made VCRs," Jackson reminded delegates.

"We had a plan to rebuild our allies in Europe and Japan and now the Soviet Union. The plan is long term aid, trade, credit, debt forgiveness, loan guarantees and defense. That same formula must apply to rebuilding American cities and towns," he said.

Jackson, who chose not to seek the presidency again in order to concentrate on voter registration and District of Columbia statehood issues, noted the numbers of non-voting inner-city residents.

"Half the people didn't vote in 1988, for anybody, because they felt themselves to be out of the equation," he said.

"We should never lose a race by the margin of unregistered voters," Jackson remarked earlier at the coalition session.

He said D.C. statehood would bring urban America the benefit of two additional senators from an urban constituency. "D.C. statehood is not for D.C. only."

Jackson announced the coalition's presidential candidates forum in Washington, D.C. January 24 and 25 in conjunction with the mid-winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

At the coalition meeting, he urged members to deal with agendas, rather than candidates at this stage of the campaign and to refrain from making endosements until position on issues are known.

"We need not jump too fast on somebody's bandwagon," he said. "First of all, we don't know where the the wagon is going, and we don't know the drivers."

Jackson denounced the scapegoating and racism that he says has shifted attention away from economic decline. He said this terrain has created divisions and fears which separate Americans from each other.

"Let us be the caring generation," he concluded in his speech to the delegates. "Although you may be locked in that group called politicians, every now and then do something just because it's right."
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Turner, Laura
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 16, 1991
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