In Support of the Obama Stimulus Plan

obama 24 In Support of the Obama Stimulus PlanThe Administration’s stimulus plan is now available for review and I urge you to read it yourself and not simply listen to media-tilted or politically biased views of the plan. You can find it at:  http://change.gov/agenda/economy_agenda/ . All the predictable ideological voices in Congress and the media have started to weigh in with their short sighted and narrow views of what needs to happen.  Some of this is not about saving the economy, but is designed to reduce the new President’s political clout before he even takes office.  It’s amazing. The house is burning down and these folks are fighting over the size of the hose we need to put out the fire.

For the stimulus to work it has to be decisive, dramatic, coherent and quick. The psychology of recovery is that people have to believe that if they don’t jump back into the economy, it could take off without them. An incremental, slowly releasing, partial and incoherent stimulus won’t stimulate. Ask Secretary Paulson- he’s managed to spend $350 billion and his biggest accomplishment has been to avoid a complete collapse.

In Friday’s New York Times, Peter Baker and David N. Herszenhorn wrote that:       

"…the broad support he [Obama] has enjoyed so far for the basic concept is now being tested as the specifics become clearer. While conservatives criticize the high spending, and moderate Democrats express concern about the swelling deficit, liberals are pushing for even more money devoted to social programs, alternative-energy development and road, bridge and school construction." 

In case no one’s noticed, this is a national emergency and no time to roll out the usual suspects. The economy is suffering a deep crisis of confidence and it is going to take a lot of cash in a hurry to get it moving again. While no one will agree with every element of the plan, and some may say it’s too little, too expensive or not fair enough-come on folks! Let’s get this show on the road. Try this, and then adjust it once we see what’s working.

The plan has a number of important provisions, and should be read in full, but let me note the plan’s elements that are squarely on the sustainability agenda:

  • "Save one million jobs through immediate investments to rebuild America’s roads and bridges and repair our schools: …make $25 billion immediately available in a Jobs and Growth Fund to help ensure that in-progress and fast-tracked infrastructure projects are not sidelined, and to ensure that schools can meet their energy costs and undertake key repairs starting this fall.
  • Partner with America’s automakers to help save jobs and ensure that the next generation of clean vehicles is built in the United States: … [provide]$50 billion in loan guarantees to help the auto industry retool, develop new battery technologies and produce the next generation of fuel efficient cars here in America.
  • Invest in our next generation innovators and job creators: …create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to identify and invest in the most compelling advanced manufacturing strategies. .
  • Double funding for the manufacturing extension partnership: … [work] with manufacturers across the country to improve efficiency, implement new technology and strengthen company growth.
  • Invest in a clean energy economy and create 5 million new green jobs: … invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid.
  • Create new job training programs for clean technologies: … increase funding for federal workforce training programs and direct these programs to incorporate green technologies training, such as advanced manufacturing and weatherization training, into their efforts to help Americans find and retain stable, high-paying jobs.
  • Boost the renewable energy sector and create new jobs: …create new federal policies, and expand existing ones, that have been proven to create new American jobs.
    • …create a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that will require 25 percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2025, which has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs
    • …extend the Production Tax Credit, a credit used successfully by American farmers and investors to increase renewable energy production and create new local jobs.
  • Create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank: …creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments. This independent entity will be directed to invest in our nation’s most challenging transportation infrastructure needs. The Bank will receive an infusion of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation. These projects will directly and indirectly create up to two million new jobs and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new economic activity.
  • .Invest in the sciences: …doubling federal funding for basic research and changing the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology.
  •  Make the Research and Development Tax Credit permanent: …make the Research and Development tax credit permanent so that firms can rely on it when making decisions to invest in domestic R&D over multi-year timeframes."

If enacted, the impact of this plan could be transformative. For the past decade, the innovation, energy and momentum of the emerging green economy has been thwarted by an Administration dominated by the interests of the oil business and the now discredited financial industry. Environmental sustainability was a public relations catch phrase rather than an expression of the nation’s core economic strategy. If these proposed programs are made law and effectively managed, they could stimulate unprecedented creativity and investment in a green economy.

If the economy wasn’t in free fall there would be time to fine tune these programs and start them gradually. Unfortunately, we are in a crisis. Congress needs to get moving with the same sense of urgency we feel outside the beltway. The new Administration needs our support, and our economy needs a strong dose of adrenalin in a hurry. Come on Congress, show a little leadership and enact this stimulus package right away-if not sooner. 

This crisis is both a test and an opportunity. Can we respond to a crisis of confidence that is still gathering momentum? A weak economy will harm the people at the bottom of the economic ladder. It will make it more difficult for young people to begin their careers and will cause retirees to suffer as their life savings evaporate.  On the other hand, it also gives us a chance to steer the investment we are about to make, toward a more sustainable economy. The risk and the opportunity are both great. Our new President has clearly articulated his understanding of this crisis- and the potential opportunity it presents. It’s time for Congress to step up and do the same.