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Joe Conason: Spend, Obama, spend! And save jobs

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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 06:56 AM
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Joe Conason: Spend, Obama, spend! And save jobs

Spend, Obama, spend! And save jobs

The first thing Obama should do is use federal funds to keep public employees from joining the swelling ranks of the unemployed.

By Joe Conason

President-elect Barack Obama (center) and Vice President-elect Joe Biden (right) listen to Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell during a meeting with members of the National Governors Association in Philadelphia on Dec. 2, 2008.

Dec. 8, 2008 | With Americans losing their jobs at a rate not seen for more than three decades, Barack Obama must determine very quickly how his administration will direct hundreds of billions of dollars to achieve the most powerful economic effect. In his weekly address on Saturday morning, he cited the catastrophic loss of more than half a million jobs in November alone as the reason for launching the biggest public works program since the Eisenhower administration -- everything from improving schools and hospitals to rebuilding roads and bridges. "We will create millions of jobs," said Obama, "by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s."

But many of the new infrastructure enterprises that he has promised would still require lengthy planning -- and even repair projects that have awaited funding will need months to get going. How can Obama stop the cascade of unemployment from driving us into a depression?

His first priority should be immediate, substantial financial aid to the states and cities that are now laying off thousands of public employees and preparing to fire thousands more. Rapid, generous assistance to localities would not only keep hundreds of thousands of workers employed, but would simultaneously advance national priorities in health, education, infrastructure, and energy efficiency.

Fortunately Obama and his advisers understand the importance of what used to be called "revenue-sharing" or "counter-cyclical assistance." Peter Orszag, his nominee to direct the Office of Management and Budget, co-authored an important paper in 2001 urging increased government expenditure as the most effective means to stimulate a lagging economy. So when the president-elect spoke at the National Governors Association meeting last week, he pledged swift action to help the states but offered no specific response to the governors' plea for at least $160 billion in aid for the coming fiscal year.

Together with Congress, he should provide that much and more - because it would be the best single investment that the federal government could make right away - and because the states and cities can do so little in this climate to help themselves.

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