Economic Recovery Is Now Up To Us

Isaiah J. Poole

Today, President-elect Barack Obama laid out the framework for his economic recovery plan and made the case for why Congress must “move as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people” to get a recovery plan passed, “working weekends if necessary,” he added, to get it done.

Now it’s our turn to push Congress to pass the kind of strategic, substantial and sustained economic recovery plan that the country needs. We need to be the wind at Obama’s sails, moving him and Congress to be unflinching in responding to the crisis with what working people need to get back on their feet.

That’s why we’re asking people to send a letter to their member of Congress today to ask that member to act urgently and to “not allow the bill to be weakened by conservative delaying tactics.”

What Obama sketched out today mirrors the priorities we set in our own Main Street Recovery Program, which not only called for short-term measures to create jobs, forestall home foreclosures and to stimulate business demand, but called for the long-term investments and reforms that are necessary to prevent a recurrence of the crisis we’re facing today.

It is true that Obama did not lay out specifics today. In fact, in an interview with John Harwood of The New York Times and CNBC on Wednesday, he said that he is leaving room for Congress to grow the package that he will propose. But, as he stressed today, it should not be grown with special interest goodies, but with the kinds of measures necessary to make sure that states can continue to provide vital services, that social safety nets are not harmed and that we can make a down payment on the development of the new energy technologies and new infrastructure we will need for our future prosperity.

“It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change must begin now,” Obama said today. The mid-February deadline that Democratic leadership has set for getting a recovery package on the president’s desk is already a retreat from what we would have liked to see, which was a package that Obama could sign hours, if not days, after being sworn in. But it is apparent that even meeting that less ambitious deadline will be made difficult by Republican obstructionists. Less than two hours after Obama’s speech, the new chairman of the ultraconservative Republican Study Committee, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., issued a screed that began:

On the heels of proposing a record-shattering stimulus package that could cost taxpayers upward of $1 trillion, President-elect Barack Obama warned of a “very sick” economy and a spiraling federal deficit that will reach $1.2 trillion in 2009. These figures prompt the question: with unrestrained government spending already resulting in an egregious deficit, why do the incoming President and his Democratic allies in Congress want to attempt to solve the problem by throwing more federal money at it?

Obama more than adequately addressed that question when he said:

It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe. Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy – where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.

True to form, Price and the RSC have no effective rebuttal to that point.

We’ll need to fire back against arguments like these for delay, for timidity, for more of the right-wing status quo.

Over the next few weeks, we will be initiating a series of actions designed to do for Obama and this Congress what a people’s movement helped do to push Roosevelt and Congress into the New Deal. The first step is to flood members of Congress with our grass-roots call for boldness.

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