February 6, 2009

Commentary:

California Needs American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

By Bob Filner
Congressman, 51st District

Just one week after our new President Barack Obama was sworn in with a call for “action, bold and swift” to get our economy back on track, Congress has taken the first step in delivering a job-creating plan to implement his vision. 

This week the House passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs, by rebuilding America, making us more globally competitive and energy independent, and transforming our economy for long-term growth; giving 95 percent of American workers an immediate tax cut; and investing quickly in the economy – with 75 percent of these job creating investments in the economy in the next 18 months.

America is facing an economic crisis greater than any since the Great Depression. A staggering 2.6 million American jobs were lost in the last year of the Bush Administration — the culmination of a failed economic approach — one that also nearly doubled our national debt in eight short years. The unemployment rate here in California has climbed to 9.3 percent. The need for a New Direction is clear. More than 140 economists all across the ideological spectrum – including 5 Nobel prize winners – have called for the recovery legislation to be enacted quickly.

To put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we are seeking to double our renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient. The energy provisions of the plan will create more than 500,000 jobs by accelerating deployment of smart grid technology and the building of new electric transmission lines for renewable energy, spurring energy efficiency investment in our homes and schools to cut energy costs, offering support for the nation’s governors and mayors to tackle their energy challenges, and spurring investment in renewable energy and more fuel-efficient cars for a greener future.

We will harness the sun, the wind, and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.

To create jobs in the short-term and make us more competitive in a global economy, this economic recovery package invests in science and technology – the key to American innovation.  The plan increases funding for critical research and development – putting us on the path to double our investment in scientific research over the next seven years. The package also makes investments in America’s information technology infrastructure, including broadband, health IT, and a smarter energy grid. More than 100 high-tech CEOs and business leaders have endorsed these IT investments that will create more than 949,000 U.S. jobs, more than half of which will be in small businesses.  

To reduce health care costs, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invests in bringing our health care system into the 21st century with health information technology – that is proven not only to reduce costs, but also to increase the quality of care, save lives, and create jobs. In addition, as millions of people are losing their jobs in this recession, they are also losing their health insurance. This package provides those losing their jobs new affordable options for maintaining their health care coverage. Also, to protect existing Medicaid coverage for millions of Americans, the package provides $11,069,212,000 here in California in additional federal matching Medicaid funds to help stave off cuts in health care in the face of massive state budget shortfalls.    

Strategic investments in education are one of the best ways to help America become more productive and competitive – spurring long-term growth. This recovery package will make bold investments to provide children with a 21st century education. In California, this means $7,854,800,000 to prevent teacher layoffs and other cutbacks in education and other key services and $2,430,042,000 to modernize our schools and colleges, which will create good-paying jobs. It will also make college more affordable with improved Pell Grants for the 744,236 Pell Grant recipients here in California and a higher education tax credit for an additional 522,000 students in our state so that they can stay in college despite these tough times.

This recovery package will save or create more than 250,000 jobs in the education and health care sectors.

To build a 21st century economy, we must create jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, building modern transit systems, and putting people to work cleaning up our air, water and land. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will make large investments to repair and modernize thousands of miles of roadways in the U.S., provide new mass transit options for millions of Americans, and invest in clean water infrastructure. These provisions would create about 1.5 million American jobs nationwide. For California, this will provide $4,695,000,384 to invest in these key infrastructure projects that are ready to go and will begin to create jobs for Californians right away.

As a down-payment on permanent middle-class tax cuts promised by President Obama, the plan includes tax cuts that will jumpstart the economy by returning money to the hands of 95% of American workers, including 12,570,000 families here in California with the “Making Work Pay” Tax Credit. Expanding the Child Tax Credit will help the families of 2,075,000 children here in California. The business tax cuts in the package will also spur new job-creating investments by businesses large and small, that will transform our economy for years to come, such as in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

In this economic crisis, high unemployment and rising costs have put a huge strain on many American families. The package contains a series of additional provisions to help, including helping workers train and find jobs, extending unemployment benefits for 505,923 people here in California, and increasing food stamp benefits for 2,399,000 people here in California.  Not only will these steps provide relief to American families, they will help jumpstart our economy as these funds are spent quickly and have the most “bang for the buck” in creating jobs and spurring economic growth.

The Recovery Plan has unprecedented accountability measures built in – providing strong oversight and an historic degree of public transparency including a dedicated website, recovery.gov, which will allow citizens to track every penny and hold officials accountable for performance. This legislation does not contain any earmarked projects requested by a specific Member. These accountability measures are critical to ensuring the effectiveness of and the confidence in this package. 

This package will make our economy stronger than it would be without any action. It will save or create an estimated 815,990 jobs by the end of 2010 and reduce the unemployment rate by 2.3 percent here in California, according to leading independent economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com. 

It will take time to turn this economy around, but we are confident that if Americans work together, we can overcome the economic crisis, just as we have tackled other great challenges in our nation’s past.

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