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Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has declared this week “jobs week” in his city, and he has been using it as an opportunity to announce a series of successes in guiding the seriously battered city toward economic recovery, such as an expansion of the Urban Outfitters clothing chain headquarters that would add 1,000 jobs and a decision by GlaxoSmithKline to build a new, $80 million headquarters in the city in the up-and-coming Navy Yard neighborhood.
Nutter is also using it to warn elected officials in Washington to not undo the work he’s doing to create jobs with job-killing federal budget cuts.
But it does not seem as if the House Republican leadership is listening. As Nutter is touting how he is using a mix of federal, state and local initiatives to close the city’s budget deficit while keeping alive programs critical to job-creation and economic growth, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers announced today he will cave in to Tea Party-conservative demands to cut $100 billion from President Obama’s 2011 federal budget. Such dramatic cuts would either sharply reduce or totally eliminate a number of programs designed to help people in need and spur the kind of job creation that congressional conservatives keep promising but have yet to begin to deliver. (Talking Points Memo calculates the actual impact based on current spending will actually be a $50 billion cut, but the impact will be no less dramatic.)
“I’ve had to make some difficult budget decisions myself. I get it,” he told the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce today. “But let us not make cuts in the short-term that will end up costing us more in the long-term – such as across-the-board cuts to education.”
He also warned against balancing the budget “on the backs of vulnerable Pennsylvanians,” saying, “A major reduction in funding for our social services network would reverse the gains we have made over the last few years” in “protecting children from harm, reducing the number of people living on our streets, and keeping our families together.”
One of the federal grants that Nutter has been using to revitalize the city is a $129 million grant from the Department of Energy to support his efforts to create a “clean tech hub” in the city. That not only includes supporting the creation of jobs at new green industries, but supporting commercial and residential energy conservation and renewable energy use. But the Department of Energy is one of the top targets for cuts in a list of $74 billion in proposed budget reductions. The Energy department cuts alone include $1.4 billion in the Energy department loan guarantee program and $899 million in the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program.
Also on the Republican hit list are such redevelopment programs as the Housing and Urban Development Community Development Fund ($530 million cut), the Community Services Block Grant ($405 million cut), and job training programs ($2 billion cut). Then there is the drastic slashing of human needs and public safety programs without which cities such as Philadelphia would be a far worse place to live—from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) aid program ($758 million) to community health centers ($1.3 billion cut) to ta Justice department that helps localities keep police officers on the street ($600 million),
What conservatives are seeking to do in the House will destroy jobs, but even worse, it can literally destroy lives.
If we want to see the kind of success stories that Nutter is trying to make happen in Philadelphia happen in other struggling cities, we must change the direction of this budget debate—on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
It has become politically acceptable to ask the poor to suffer more while the wealthy are not asked to sacrifice anything. To Nutter’s credit, part of his economic revival strategy involved asking wealthier Philadelphians to pay higher taxes at least temporarily, He didn’t just go after public employees and the poor, as some Republican governors are doing.
Nutter said today that he made a lot of people angry with his budget decisions. But, “we maintained our core services. We protected our most vulnerable populations from harm. And we have not taken any steps to stabilize our budget in the short-term that will damage our recovery in the long-term. That’s because we understand that it’s economic activity, investment, and job creation that will put us on a sustainable path to prosperity.”
On that last point, Nutter is dead on. We need a national movement with bold ideas for job creation that will bring broadly shared prosperity and end what my colleague Richard Eskow calls the “slasher-movie economics” that promises to bring us a horrible nightmare.
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