Whatever happened to last year's breakout stars?
Some of the best minds of this generation are getting together at the White House jobs summit this week to get our economy back to pre-recession levels.
But if they do only that, we will all fail.
President Obama is right to bring together some of the nation’s top business, labor and community leaders to figure out how to bring jobs into the recovery. But just re-creating the past is not enough. We must create a new financial structure — an inclusive, expansive economy that harnesses the skills of all people.
An economic recovery that doesn’t lift up low-income people and communities of color is no recovery at all. President Obama has shown he is committed to a recovery for all, which is why I am honored to be one of several nonprofit and advocacy leaders who will try to bring the voices of struggling Americans to the table at the jobs summit.
Bringing disinvested communities to the forefront is vital for a 21st century economy that serves workers, communities and corporate bottom lines.
We can no longer allow the talents and potential of tens of millions of Americans to be wasted. We can no longer let entire cities simply fade and crumble in a cloud of unemployment and lack of interest.
While the federal stimulus package helped keep the nation from sliding into another Great Depression, the challenges we continue to face are staggering:
• One in six black men is unemployed.
• One in seven Latinos is unemployed.
• The unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma has almost doubled since the recession began, to 15.5 percent.
• Twenty metro areas have unemployment rates above 14 percent.
These problems didn’t appear overnight, of course. Decades of disinvestment in many American communities has left us reeling. We are wasting the most precious resource we have — the ingenuity and hard work of millions. We need all Americans working on all cylinders to keep our economic engine running. A stagnant economy that leaves millions behind cannot compete in the global marketplace.
That is why many of the America’s most forward-thinking business leaders support equity, too. They need employees from every skill range. International investors give strong preference to companies situated in areas with a diverse, well-trained and accessible workforce. They can see the new jobs coming, but rely on smart public policy to provide them with qualified, nearby workers.
Innovative leaders know that we must first invest in the people and communities who need help most. In fact, just this week, Kansas City Power & Light committed $48 million to create a “smart grid” in some of the city’s lowest-income areas — creating jobs for local residents and keeping energy costs down. The grid is the first step in a groundbreaking “Green Impact Zone,” which will transform a long-ignored community into a sustainable model for other distressed urban areas.
Cutting-edge corporations already know where the jobs of tomorrow will be, but it is up to all of us to make sure those jobs go to communities that need them most. In a recent analysis, Google found that we will create 9 million new clean energy jobs by 2030. These jobs aren’t for Ph.D.s in pristine white lab coats, huddled around bubbling beakers. Rather, the bulk of these jobs are in construction and operations — so-called middle-skill jobs that require only a year or two of training beyond high school.
As I often say, “equity is the superior growth model.” For America to reach its economic potential, every American must have the opportunity to participate and prosper.
So, how do we ensure “equity” is the primary driver of our long-term and short-term economic plan? Real, sustainable economic recovery requires that we:
1. Train the next generation of middle-skill workers.
We know a high-school diploma just won’t cut it for the jobs of tomorrow. But a four-year college degree isn’t feasible for every student. One or two years of training after high-school can train a young person (or retrain an older one) for high-wage jobs like lab technicians, machinists and operating engineers. By investing a set percentage of every infrastructure dollar in job training, we would help save the economy of today and build the economy of tomorrow.
2. Stop foreclosures and put people to work keeping foreclosed properties from becoming blighted.
While exurban McMansions are often the public face of the foreclosure crisis, poor communities and urban communities of color have been hit particularly hard. Keeping homeowners in their houses and abandoned houses clean is the key to stopping entire communities from falling apart.
3. Start the “green revolution” in low-income communities.
The fight against climate change can begin at home, quite literally. By retrofitting thousands (or even millions) of homes in poor neighborhoods, we can dramatically cut our energy use and help working families save money on their energy bills. Those cutting-edge construction and technology skills stay with a person even after the retrofits are done, too. But most important, we can put thousands of people to work lifting up their own communities.
4. Invest in the long-term infrastructure of all communities.
We must even out the country’s lopsided and ill-conceived infrastructure spending. While money continues to flow to new suburban highway construction, many low-income communities are left without the adequate public transit they need to access good jobs. Expanding broadband lines to poor communities could also unleash pent-up entrepreneurship. All of the construction and maintenance jobs created by these investments are within reach of middle-skill workers and would serve as a solid foundation for local economic growth. A National Infrastructure Bank, which has already had traction on Capitol Hill, is a perfect way to keep our infrastructure investments focused on the long-term needs of all Americans.
None of these ideas on their own is enough to bring the national economy to full vibrancy. We need a multifaceted, multiyear approach to restarting our jobs engine. Short-term job creation efforts must serve the long-term economic interests of all communities.
The jobs summit is a wonderful step in the right direction. The lessons learned by labor leaders, global CEOs, small-business owners and innovative nonprofits must be joined together to create a 21st century economy that serves everyone.
Our objective Thursday is not to simply re-create the old way of doing business. It’s to imagine a new world of economic possibility.
Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder and CEO of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity More Angela Blackwell.
The star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” charmed practically everyone at the Oscars, where she was the youngest best actress nominee ever; she went on to film a remake of “Annie” opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Jepsen, who had 2012’s song of the summer with “Call Me Maybe,” released the fifth and final single from her debut album in January 2013. She toured the U.S. in mid-2013 -- just as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke battled to succeed her as icons of the summer.
Honey Boo Boo
2012’s biggest reality star, the young pageant contestant Alana Thompson, had a quieter time this year, with a second season whose ratings were strong but whose buzz was a bit muted. America was, by now, accustomed to young Thompson, and outraged or scandalized reactions were reserved for other TLC programming, like “The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.”
Ocean missed out on the top Grammys for which he was nominated in early 2013; he bounced back quickly with featured appearances on albums by Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, and is at work on a new album. Things are looking up!
The “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike” star had a marginally less charmed 2013, with “White House Down” failing to connect with moviegoers and “Foxcatcher” delayed until next year. It may get worse before it gets better: His big 2014 sci-fi flick, “Jupiter Ascending,” looks … well, a little weird!
With their third album in 21 months hitting No. 1 immediately upon its fall 2013 release, the boy band that broke into America in 2012 would seem to be here to stay for a while. Still, they looked a bit nervous in their reaction shots during the Video Music Awards’ ‘N Sync reunion; maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually, the Justin of One Direction is going to break out. For now, though, things look good!
Lana Del Rey
The famously uncomfortable “Saturday Night Live” musical guest overcame endless mockery from 2012 to land her first top-10 hit in the summer of 2013 -- a remix of a year-old song, “Summertime Sadness.” As the co-writer of “Young and Beautiful,” the love theme from “The Great Gatsby,” Del Rey is such a front-runner for the best original song Oscar (last won by Adele) that there has been a direct-mail campaign to academy voters against her. The song was also played at the most romantic event of the year: Kanye West’s stadium marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Wilson, who charmed fans of 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” had a rockier 2013, with her sitcom “Super Fun Night” struggling creatively and in the ratings. Her next planned movies are both sequels, to “Kung Fu Panda” and -- hoping lightning will strike twice -- to “Pitch Perfect.”
Another 2012 music icon, Gotye won the record of the year trophy at the 2013 Grammys for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He released no new singles in 2013, and has told the press he has been struggling to complete new material. Good luck, Gotye!
The golden boy of the 2012 Olympics, without feats of aquatic derring-do to distract the public this year, saw his always-tenuous persona completely shift from “amiable jock” into “utter dolt” with his E! reality series. Worst of all, the series was canceled.
In 2012, the young actress -- best known for her role in the indie “Winter’s Bone” and a supporting part in the “X-Men” franchise -- had marquee roles in the first “Hunger Games” film and in David O. Russell’s comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” In 2013, she played to her strengths: After winning an Oscar, she starred in the second “Hunger Games” movie, on whose publicity tour she managed to charm everyone in America, and had another role in a David O. Russell comedy, “American Hustle,” for which she might just win ANOTHER Oscar. By 2014, she may end up running a major studio, or serving as president.
The breakout bikini model of 2012 made a repeat appearance on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- and got to do high-fashion spreads in Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was cast in a Cameron Diaz comedy, too. Some types of appeal are eternal!
E. L. James
The “50 Shades” novelist now gets to help share some input into a movie adaptation set for release in 2015. She probably never needs to work again! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that … just … great?
The “Gangnam Style” phenom performed at New Year’s 2013, but will spend New Year’s 2014 flipping channels to find his pistachio ad, his goofy antics having been outdone in the past year by “The Fox” singers Ylvis. Nothing meme can stay.