Tom McNamara, Blueprint America
President Barack Obama has brought change to Washington, D.C. In this newly declared post-partisan era of politics, there is growing bipartisan opposition to the President’s economic stimulus package.
The House approved its version of the stimulus package on Jan. 28, estimated to cost $819 billion. The Senate is set to vote soon on its version, which carries a price tag nearing $920 billion.
The bipartisan group drafted a list of nearly $90 billion in cuts, including, as The New York Times reports, “$40 billion in aid for states, more than $14 billion for various education programs, $4.1 billion to make federal buildings energy efficient and $1.5 billion for broadband Internet service in rural areas.”
As the Senate delays passage of the bill, it was reported today that the U.S. lost almost 600,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent, its highest level in more than 16 years, the Labor Department said.
In response, President Obama called the hold up in Congress “inexcusable and irresponsible.” The President also said in an address at the Department of Energy that Republican proposals are “rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve all our problems, that government doesn’t have a role to play, that half measures and tinkering are somehow enough, that we can afford to ignore our most fundamental economic challenges. Those ideas have been tested, and they have failed.”
The support of at least two Republicans – and probably more – will be needed by the Democrats to pass the stimulus bill, which for procedural reasons requires 60 votes.
Originally $820 billion in the House-passed bill, the cost of the Senate measure has risen substantially with a $64 billion provision to allow middle class Americans to forgo paying the alternative minimum tax in 2009, and the inclusion of $30 billion in tax breaks for purchases of homes and cars.
What about infrastructure?
As the stimulus package touted to rebuild the American economy with infrastructure spending continues to just add tax-cut provisions – even rejecting an additional amendment to provide more funding for public works projects – President Obama is again emphasizing the importance of infrastructure investment.
On Feb. 3, the President sat down with the anchors of the major American television networks to defend his economic stimulus plan. In an interview with ABC’s Charles Gibson, President Obama said:
“I actually think that if you look at the package that came out of the House, here’s what we’ve got. We’ve got provisions to help states who are seeing record numbers of people unemployed, providing them unemployment insurance, food stamps, making sure that they don’t lose their health care. That’s the right thing to do. Not only does it stimulate the economy, but it gives families immediate relief. We focus on making sure that in addition to creating jobs, we’re laying the foundation for long-term economic growth. So we invest in infrastructure, around new green jobs and energy, making sure that we are weatherizing homes to save on our energy bills long term…
… The criticisms have generally been around some policy initiatives that were placed in the bill that I think are actually good policy, but some people may say is not going to actually stimulate jobs quickly enough. I think that there’s legitimate room for working through those issues over the next several weeks to make sure that we get the best possible bill. But here’s the thing that I think we have to understand. The economy is in desperate straits. What I won’t do is adopt the same economic theories that helped land us in the worst economy since the Great Depression. What I will do is work with anybody of good faith to make sure that we can come up with the best possible package to not only create jobs and provide support to families, but also to lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth…”
Sources: ABC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, whitehouse.gov