On His Jobs Tour, Obama Touts Amazon Jobs That Are Literally Out Of Reach

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from The Huffington Post,

Those jobs that President Barack Obama just touted Tuesday afternoon in Chattanooga, Tenn., are literally beyond reach of most of the people who might fill them.

The president visited an Amazon warehouse on the city’s industrial periphery to spotlight a hopeful surge in recent hiring, part of his campaign to urge job creation as the fix for middle class decline. But the first part of landing a job is getting to the workplace. Getting to the Amazon warehouse is a formidable challenge for anyone lacking a car: The Chattanooga bus system doesn’t go there.

This disconnect between available jobs and the public transit system is a problem across many major American cities. It is a problem normally discussed in isolation, as if public transportation were some sort feel-good, clean air-generating pursuit for endangered species-loving people who eat wheat grass. In reality, our shortage of public transportation represents a full-blown crisis at the center of the explanation for how millions of Americans have found themselves exiled from working life.

Nearly 40 million working-age Americans reside in parts of metropolitan areas that effectively lack public transportation, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. Another Brookings study found that in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, nearly half of all jobs were more than 10 miles beyond the downtown core. Two-thirds of the jobs in these cities were beyond range of a 90-minute commute using mass transit.

All of which makes Obama’s visit to the Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga hard to square with his recent job creation push. He went there to urge Congress to strike “a grand bargain for middle class jobs.” My colleague Dave Jamieson has already covered the fact that many of the new Amazon jobs are temp positions, meaning they are low-paying and generally devoid of health benefits — in short, no ticket to the middle class. Putting that aside, how will the people who need these jobs the most get to work? In Chattanooga, less than 23 percent of the metro area’s working-age people have access to public transit, according to Brookings, making it the worst endowed metropolis in the United States.

The president has injected talk of economic inequality into the national conversation — a helpful thing. “If we don’t do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be,” he told The New York Times last week. “Unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. Income inequality will continue to rise. That’s not a future that we should accept.”

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