You may have heard that the U.S. economy is in a bit of a pickle, hemorrhaging millions of jobs under the protracted Bush recession, with millions more on the line if nothing is done. Most Americans and most elected officials in Washington have deemed this pickle severe enough to warrant an economic recovery plan of unprecedented boldness. But some in Washington insist on viewing the worst recession since the Great Depression through the same partisan lens as they always have, devoid of any sense of urgency and coming to the table with nothing but the same old ideas that got us in this mess to begin with.
In December, then President Elect Barack Obama wasted no time after the election outlining a major jobs and economic recovery plan that will create or save three to four million jobs, strengthen our middle class, and improve the economy in the near and long term by making sound investments in state fiscal relief, health care, energy efficiency, transportation and schools. And the Democratic leadership has been working every since to set the plan into motion.
And then there's the Congressional Republicans, still stuck in the past and in their well worn, special interest driven ideology. They're not about to let two electoral defeats in a row and the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes spur any sort of reevaluation of their failed conservative economic philosophies of corporate protectionism and 'trickle-down' economics. Hey, if it ain't broke...well. They see the worst economic crisis in more than 70 years as a ripe opportunity to promote the same old, discredited policies which got us into this crisis in the first place:
"Jon Kyl (Ariz.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership team, said he hadn't studied the list of proposed cuts, but that he favored reducing corporate and capital gains taxes, and providing more generous small-business incentives. And, he said, "These changes should be permanent, rather than just temporary.'" [Washington Post, 1/6/09]
"Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, incoming chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said House Republicans were not likely to support the emerging Democratic package and would instead push for their own version of a stimulus measure urging a suspension of capital gains taxes on new stock share purchases and a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. [CQ, 12/22/08]
What a textbook case of upside-down priorities. Slashing capital gains taxes and taxes on stock dividends would favor only the well-heeled in this country who need relief the least - an economic prescription proven to have virtually no stimulative effects on the economy - at the expense of job generating and saving policies like state fiscal relief and investments in new energy technology and in upgrading our nation's infrastructure .
States for example, most of which required to balance their budgets, face vexing choices in an economic downturn: raise taxes, cut services or layoff employees or some combination of all three -- all of which are counter cyclical, making a bad economic situation worse and accelerating the downward spiral. State fiscal relief provided by the federal government not only can stave off such choices - but is among the most stimulative elements of an economic recovery plan.
According to Mark Zandi, the widely respected economist who advised Senator John McCain during the campaign, every dollar invested in public services creates a $1.38 in economic activity in our communities. As for helping those individuals and families most impacted by this crisis Zandi concludes that every dollar spent on unemployment benefits, our domestic economy grows by $1.63. And for every dollar spent on food stamps our economy grows by $1.73.
For nearly 8 years Republicans got to try it their way - one tax giveaway to the wealthy and well connected and corporate America after another -- and yet look where we are today: 8 years of the worst economic performance than any eight year span since records on such things have been kept. An abysmal performance where ideas like the ones we are hearing today - tax cuts for business and upper incomers - didn't work.
In December, after having discussions with the Obama transition team and Congressional leaders, Americans United for Change, along with AFSCME, SEIU, MoveOn.org Political Action, USAction and ACORN - pulled a broad cross section of more than 30 groups together to form the Campaign for Jobs and Economic Recovery to lead the fight to pass the Obama jobs and economic recovery plan. We have conducted hundreds of events across the country, we have held meetings with members of Congress in their districts, we have written and placed hundreds of letters to the editor, we have produced web videos, initiated phone and email campaigns and just launched the first paid ad of the campaign in Ohio urging Senator George Voinovich to back the Obama jobs plan as the President Elect was in Cleveland touring a manufacturing plant and promoting his plan.
We had hoped that this activity would not have been necessary - that members of Congress would have learned that what has been tried for the past eight years - Bush style "trickle down economics" - doesn't work. And that they would have gotten the message from the election and from the wisdom of the Obama plan that it is time to make important investments that will stimulate the economy now and prepare it for the future.
Sadly, the need is clear.
"Oh my God," was Republican Leader John Boehner's 3-word dismissal of the House Leadership's draft of the Obama jobs and economic plan. Yes, no better way to show how serious Republicans are taking this economic crisis than through juvenile wise cracking.