Thursday, February 05, 2009

President Obama pens op-ed on the economic stimulus plan

Well, this is rather interesting. President Barack Obama has written an opinion piece in today's Washington Post, arguing for the passage of his economic stimulus plan:

By now, it's clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression. Millions of jobs that Americans relied on just a year ago are gone; millions more of the nest eggs families worked so hard to build have vanished. People everywhere are worried about what tomorrow will bring.

What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives -- action that's swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.

Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That's why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it's a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

Every day, our economy gets sicker -- and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

These are the actions Americans expect us to take without delay. They're patient enough to know that our economic recovery will be measured in years, not months. But they have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide.

So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington's bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn't written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.

The writer is president of the United States.

A couple of comments on the fight taking place over the Obama stimulus bill in the Senate. First, the Republicans are playing hardball politics here. Over the past couple of weeks, they have been able to shif the debate from why we need this economic stimulus plan to stop the economic free fall taking place in the U.S., towards complaining that this Obama stimulus plan is nothing more than a huge pork package of government spending. And at the same time, the Republicans offer their own economic stimulus plan consisting mainly of--you guessed it--tax cuts. At the same time, the Obama administration has been putting out brush fires regarding former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's withdrawal from nomination as HHS secretary and Nancy Killefer to withdrawal her nomination for chief performance officer--with both nominees citing tax issues as the reason for their withdrawals. So the Republicans have been able to hijack the debate over the economic stimulus plan.

Another problem for President Obama has been the compromise issue with the Republicans. I know that President Obama campaigned with the promise of restoring bipartisanship in government--something that was never given with the previous Bush administration, which made Congress a castrated rubber-stamp to their hard-lined, conservative policies. And bipartisanship is important, at least up to a point. But with President Obama visiting House Republicans, and offering compromises--but no compromise to tax cuts--to his stimulus bill, only to have the entire House GOP snub Obama by voting against the stimulus bill. What is more, House Minority Leader John Boehner told his GOP colleagues not to vote for the stimulus package, even before President Obama visited Capitol Hill. The Republicans are playing hardball politics here simply for political gain. They want President Barack Obama to fail in passing this stimulus bill, possibly hoping that if the U.S. economy gets even worst, then the American people will blame Obama for the economic mess and vote more Republicans into office during the next election. The Republicans do not care about the country, or even helping the American people--they just care about the accumulation of political power.

Which brings us back to the issue of compromise. For the Republicans, compromise means we shove our political and ideological agenda down your throat--whether you like it or not. Republicans will refuse to compromise on any of their issues or legislative agenda, while demanding that the Democrats compromise on all of their issues and legislative agenda. This makes the GOP a very good opposition party, able to employ every dirty trick and filibuster to kill legislation, or block any appointment, that they oppose. So it is no surprise that Senate Republicans are gearing up towards filibustering the Obama stimulus package. President Obama needs to take the debate on the stimulus bill back to the point where the bill will halt the sliding U.S. economy, and slowly begin the recovery with Americans getting more jobs, and money to consume in the economy. That is what this opinion-ed was written for. It is also an argument, by the president to the American people, to show who is to blame for the failure of this stimulus bill to be passed by the Senate--Republican obstructionism. So the Obama administration is starting to play their own version of hardball politics against the congressional Republicans--be open to bipartisanship and compromise, but carry a big stick against obstructionism. This economic stimulus package is going to be the opening salvo in revealing whether President Obama can succeed, or fail, in his term of office.

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