More Spending Is
Stimulus Does Not Go Nearly Far Enough
BY PAT WILLIAMS
During President Franklin Roosevelt’s first term he and his economic policy assistants were busily developing “economic stimulus” efforts to cope with the devastating effects of The Great Depression.
Then too, as now, the public had varying opinions about the president's proposals. Those differences echoed not only across the nation but even within the Oval Office. A former assistant to FDR, the late Tommy Corchran, told me the story of a late night meeting between the President, Tommy, and a few other advisors. There was heated disagreement about one of the job proposals Roosevelt was considering sending to the Congress. One of the assistants blurted out: "Mr. President, with respect sir, this proposal is flawed because it will work only in the short run." Corchran proceeded to tell me that FDR, who always held his temper in check, slapped the palm of his hand upon his desk top and said, "Damn it, people eat in the short run."
Today our nation and the world face the most perilous eco-nomic times since those devastating 1930s. And just as Americans did during those times we must regain the wisdom to believe in and once again trust American government. Our current crisis requires the boldness necessary to create solutions that are every bit as big as our problems, but to do so will require citizen support and some measure of bipartisanship in the Congress and among governors and state legislatures.
The current Economic Stimulus package, formally named The American Recovery and Investment Act, is a start…but barely. It is, frankly, too limited to shock our economy out of its irregular heartbeat. A full 35 percent of the cost of the package are in tax cuts which are not focused to create additional consumer spending in anywhere near the amount we need. On the spending side, the stimulus package is not nearly as aggressive as our difficulties require. Three million-six-hundred-thousand people have lost their jobs during the recession and the economy is now hemorrhaging 20,000 lost jobs a day. We need to do more, lots more.
With this legislation President Obama and the Congress had the opportunity to create a "Green New Deal." We need massive restoration of the public's land. There can be many thousands of jobs in appropriate restorative timber harvest, in removing the old and often dangerous scars of the West's industrial past, in the restoration of our city's brownfields, and the capture and sequestration of fossil fuel carbon.
Alternative energy, an essen-tial if we are to lose our dependence on foreign oil, is waiting for public initiatives to jumpstart its development and research. Wind, solar, geothermal, perhaps nuclear and cleaner coal all mean jobs by the many thousands. Recovering our old valued industrial base when American workers made everything from our steel to our clothes, assisting our nation's automobile manufacturing base, saving our financial sector with dollars accompanied with payback plans and strict regulations, and stemming the flood of home foreclosures—all of this and more are necessary not only this year but for several years in the future. But to achieve it will require attention, application, auditing strategies, and many more old-fashioned Yankee dollars. This current anemic stimulus package should and likely will be followed by additional jobs bills in the several years ahead. If not, we will have needlessly wasted this initial package of $789 billion taxpayer dollars. Without the boldness of a continuing multi-year assault against this widening black hole of economic collapse, America will falter as the world's leader with others in the wings to take our place.
We Americans must set aside the timidity that has plagued us since the 1980s and return to those times from the ‘30s to the 1970s when we really understood that government was a partner that could and did make a positive difference in our lives.
Former Congressman Pat Williams teaches at The University of Montana.