President Obama has asked citizens to continue grassroots efforts which were successful in the campaign to help pass his proposed economic stimulus package. The package which is estimated to be between 700 and 800 billion dollars is supposed to stimulate the economy, put people back to work, and preclude a virtual meltdown of the U.S. economy.
Urgency in the passage of the bill was again stressed by the President in his speech Monday as thousands lose their jobs daily and the rest stop spending. But there has been much debate about the efficacy of the proposed stimulus plan. To gather support for the bill, President Obama requested through "Organizing for America," that citizens attend various house meetings last weekend to discuss the plan. I attended one such event in Northern Virginia at the invitation of my friend Julie which was advertised as: "Eat, Drink and Be Informed (Economic Recovery Meeting) We'll gather with friends and neighbors to view a short video that will describe The President's Economic Recovery Plan. It will also answer questions submitted by fellow citizens."
The event began with a video from our own Virginia former Governor, now head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Tim Kaine, answering questions from citizens around the country, and encouraging those present to discuss the economy and how it is affecting us personally.
My group which consisted of an intelligent and thoughtful collection of Northern Virginia residents was eager to take on the task. Discussion ranged from: whether there should be a tax on gasoline to support the use of alternative fuels, to a universal 4% mortgage rate, to the importance of increased funding for education in the bill. Northern Virginia residents also voiced its objection to amending the bill too much to include tax cuts, while deleting portions which provide for more direct as well as long term relief. Our group developed an action plan to support the stimulus plan, and agreed to continue our grassroots efforts together. It was a very fruitful evening and we all felt a part of the solution.
An article in the New York Times, however, by Sarah Wheaton seems to make light of this grassroots meeting effort. Ms. Wheaton states: "In addition to creating the impression that the government is listening to Americans' woes, the White House will be able to use the anecdotes to refine its pitch for the package." She also defines the house meetings as merely a "repurposing" of the campaign efforts. As one who attended one of these events I cannot agree. While the last 8 years were marked by decision-making in a bubble which led to the current economic crisis, by contrast, the "house" economy plan meetings represent real change, to wit: an opportunity to solicit a variety of ideas and opinions in order to make the best decisions for the country. Millions of real people are affected by this economy and instead of making light of the house gatherings and the President whom she described as "chillin" this weekend in Camp David, Ms. Wheaton would do better to applaud the involvement of "we the people" in our economic and national future.