Our Most 'Expensive' Citizens Can Become Our Climate Change Heroes.

In the wake of the highest unemployment rate in 25 years, The Roosevelt Institute asked historians, economists and other public thinkers to reflect on the lessons of the New Deal and explore new, big ideas for how to get America back to work. TAPPED will be cross-posting the 10-part series with the New Deal 2.0 blog over the course of the next two weeks. In this installment, Majora Carter argues for a massive scale, green-collar-job creation effort to revitalize our cities.

People with jobs are better off than people without jobs. But it turns out that people with jobs are even better off if other people are fully employed too – and l am not referring to the alleged “benefits” of increased consumer activity.

One of the reasons our country is the world leader in per capita incarceration and recidivism rates is that jobs in the illegal economy are easier to find than legitimate entry-level jobs in some areas. By “some areas” I mean ghettos, and by “ghettos” I mean anywhere poor people are concentrated.

Often, these are people returning from prison, people who have lived in generational poverty, or returning combat veterans – some fit all three of these demographics. Each group commonly suffers from, among other things, a deep sense of social isolation that inhibits their participation in the marketplace, increases their social services footprint, and negatively affects the health and educational outcomes of both themselves and the people around them. Typically, these places are the environmental sacrifice zones that make our dirty-energy economy possible.

They have been creating expensive and ever-widening cost vectors for decades – if one looks at how many people are coming out of our prisons, going into poverty, and coming back from multiple deployments for wars with no end in sight. We need to turn those cost vectors around as soon as possible using the tools we can control on regional and community levels.

More after the jump.

--Majora Carter

Majora Carter is the President of the Majora Carter Group, LLC. She is an environmental justice advocate and economic consultant.