Leo W. Gerard
By Leo W. Gerard
The sky is falling.
For the average Working Joe or Jane in America, it is anyway. Unemployment is at 7.6 percent and rising. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that there are 4.1 job seekers now for every opening. The mortgage delinquency rate set another record last quarter, and foreclosures are predicted to top 1 million this year. Because of reckless speculation by Wall Street financiers, the stock market is plummeting, taking with it a third of the value of the retirement accounts of hard-working Americans.
If the average Jane and Joe have not lost their jobs, they’ve seen a big chunk of their retirement savings slip away. Or their kid can’t find work. Or a neighbor’s been foreclosed on.
Still, Republicans in Congress couldn’t find it in their hearts to vote for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly called the stimulus bill. They just can’t vote to support the American people – they’re “Republicants.”
An official description of the act the Republicants rejected says it: “Makes supplemental appropriations for FY2009: (1) for job preservation and creation; (2) to promote economic recovery; (3) to assist those most impacted by the recession; (4) to provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health; (5) to invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits; and (6) to stabilize state and local government budgets, in order to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases.”
In the House, not a single Republicant voted for this bill to create jobs and restore economic growth. In the Senate, three brave members of the GOP stood up to the Republicants gang to pass the Recovery Act and aid suffering Americans – Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
The GOP made it malevolently clear during their majority years in the Bush administration that they opposed anything that would strengthen America’s middle class, but its votes this week were based on deep, and frankly justified, fear of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
New York Times Columnist and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman explained it earlier this week at the Thinking Big Thinking Forward conference conducted in Washington D. C. by EPI, Institute for America’s Future, The American Prospect and Demos.
Republicans are terrified of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act because if it works, if it creates jobs and helps stimulate the economy, then Americans will think good thoughts about government action and spending.
And that could lead to new public support for government payments for important social safety net programs like health care.
Republicans have invested decades, untold millions of dollars and countless hours on Sunday morning blathering-head shows persuading Americans that government is too big. They’ve contended that taxes should be cut to force curtailment of government. Bush supporter Grover Norquist, who is president of Americans for Tax Reform and a director of the American Conservative Union, expressed it best for the group: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
They did cut taxes – for the rich. And they cut services – crucial ones, like inspection of toys so that millions of toxic trinkets imported from China got into the hands – and mouths — of American toddlers. And inspection of food and the factories producing it, so it’s possible that salmonella-tainted peanut butter has sickened 500 and killed eight.
And they placed bunglers in charge of important government agencies. This, of course, was deliberate, to make government look incompetent — an entity deserving of drowning in a bathtub. One of them was the infamous “Brownie,” Michael P. Brown, who headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which, in fact, drowned when called to respond to Hurricane Katrina. Brownie’s qualification to head FEMA was his service as commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association. By contrast, he replaced James Lee Witt, former President Bill Clinton’s FEMA director. Witt won acclaim for good performance in office. His qualification to head FEMA was his tenure as director of the Arkansas Office of Emergency Services.
In addition to cutting service, conservatives eliminated government regulation. The result for America was the subprime mortgage crisis and credit default swaps, an unregulated risky transaction that helped push the nation’s financial institutions to the brink.
Americans put up $700 billion to bail out those bankers last fall. But the Republicants don’t talk about that when they say, as Republicant Congressman Jerry Lewis of California did on Friday, that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is a recipe for bloated government programs that will saddle taxpayers with debt “well, well into the future.”
“Facts are stubborn things,” Mr. Lewis said.
Fact is, Mr. Lewis voted to indebt Americans for $700 billion to bail out banks.
So, clearly, spending American taxpayers’ money is not a problem for him.
Spending it on taxpayers is.
The Recovery and Reinvestment Act contains about $50 billion for shovel-ready road, airport, bridge and other infrastructure projects nationwide that will create construction and manufacturing jobs. The nation’s electricity grid is to be upgraded with $11 billion, creating similar jobs. States will get $54 billion, which will help out Mr. Lewis’ California, now $42 billion in debt. That money can go for highway and school building as well as to prevent layoffs of teachers, firefighters and other state workers.
Altogether, the $790 billion Recovery and Reinvestment bill is designed to create or preserve between 3.5 and 4 million jobs.
When the sky is falling, that’s some shelter for America’s little guys. If President Obama is right and this act succeeds in creating jobs and stimulating the economy, he will have performed a great service for struggling and suffering workers.
He will also have revived what Norquist and Brownie, Carl Rove and Bush tried so hard to waterboard: the concept that government can do good.