President Obama has inherited the most challenging global economic crisis in the nation’s history. If we thought for one moment that we had the luxury of political drama offered up by Republicans and those few Blue Dog Democrats who have become oppositionists, we are sadly mistaken as daily Americans lose jobs by the thousands. The time to pull together as a nation is now if indeed we are true patriots and can bring ourselves to put the country first. The bill offers much to stabilize and grow the economy through job creation and offers concessions to those Republicans that insist that tax cuts should be an essential part of the package. The Nation writes: “If enacted, the economic recovery plan will be one of the biggest and boldest pieces of progressive legislation in the past forty years.” Let’s examine what this bill offers in a nutshell:
• It creates or saves three to four million jobs in the next two years.
• It creates hundreds of thousands of infrastructure and green jobs and doubles our clean energy production.
• It averts literally hundreds of thousands of teacher layoffs — and doubles funding for the Department of Education.
• It immediately gives the unemployed access to affordable health care coverage.
Critics who want to cherry-pick tiny fractions of the bill such as anti-smoking programs give the appearance that these items are a major part of the bill when in fact they make up less than one-ten-thousandth of the spending. I agree such items should be removed at this time and we should focus only on job creation, education and health care coverage for those who have lost their jobs. The administration will roll out a separate package to address foreclosures; one suggestion offered by the Republicans to encourage lenders to set interest rates at four per cent for a limited period of time to allow homeowners to pay their mortgages and remain in their homes is a good one and offers an important next step.
There is no question that President Obama is staying true to his commitment to work in a bipartisan way to respect and include valid ideas from Republicans in the package, and we applaud his courage in the face of harsh opposition, mainly by those who had a primary role in creating the problem.
The nation is rapidly moving from a recession toward a depression. Current unemployment figures do not realistically portray those who have stopped looking for work. If this bill does not pass we’re in deep trouble and can only blame ourselves that we allowed politics to rule the day. The people made a choice and voted for change on election day and they expect their interests to be paramount, which brings us to the man who lost the election — Sen. John McCain.
Though he is opposed to the bill because he favors more tax cuts, his economic adviser estimates that without the stimulus, unemployment would top 11 per cent by 2010, the highest level since the Great Depression. In Los Angeles and other cities, the unemployment rate is already in double digits. Regardless of our political affiliation it is time to say, “Act!”
Bettye Foster Baker lives in Gettysburg, Pa., and Oak Bluffs. She writes the Oak Bluffs column for the Gazette from May until September.