Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stimulus, Dimulus! Mobulus Jobuless.

Hot air drives public policy farther than cold facts. 

The American right has learned to create demons like death panels and global cooling myths, and then blow hot air all over them until they've diverted elected officials from doing the right thing.

Meanwhile two deadly facts confront us and languish in governmental limbo.  One such fact is massive unemployment.  If we magically produced 10,000 new jobs overnight, we would simply have restored the unemployment levels of 2007.  The second fact is this:  Our entire infrastructure is in deadly decay.  We have unsafe bridges, falling-down schools, leaking and degraded water systems and crumbling highways.

It would seem logical to draw a connection between those two facts and create most of those 10,000 needed jobs by setting out to make all those needed infrastructure repairs, right?  Wrong!  It would cost trillions,  cry the Republican guardians of the treasury, blowing hot air all over their new demon, The Dreaded Federal Deficit.

Never mind that those same Republicans still defend the unwinnable wars, triggered by illegal U.S. invasions of sovereign nations eight years ago, that cost us many trillions more.  Their wars, expanded by Dr. Kidglove the reborn militarist,  are draining away the dollars that are needed at home.

Why not stop that drain? Why not divert those dollars to needed projects at home?

For example: we prate piously about the importance of education to our society.  Yet without even mentioning curriculum needs, we face a looming disaster in the deteriorating condition of the very buildings in which we endeavor to teach our young.  An immediate investment of $12 billion or so, creating 1.5 million new jobs, would provide the needed repairs.

Consider bridges.  When the the I-35 bridge across the Mississippi River at Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour in August of 2007, the nation briefly took notice of the infrastructure problem, -- an interest that quickly and predictably waned.  We had celebrity marriages to fret about.  Yet at that time Pennsylvania alone had 5,600 unsafe and structurally deficient bridges.  Its Democratic governor muscled through a capital budget with 700 million extra dollars earmarked annually to fix the things.  "Every time we fixed two," lamented Gov, Ed Rendell, "three would bump onto the list."  Last year the state had more than 6,000 structurally obsolete bridges.

In Washington today, the President thumped his chest over the year-old economic stimulus law as having staved off a second Great Depression and preserved some 2 million jobs.  He acknowledged that for the many millions more angry Americans who are still jobless, "It doesn't feel like much of a recovery."  Thank you, Dr. Kidglove. What are you doing about it?

Every state has its own bridge problems like Pennsylvania's: at least a quarter of the nation's bridges, including the iconic Brooklyn Bridge,  are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

We're accustomed to drought here in the Southwest, but two years ago Atlantans had to ration water because of drought conditions -- while 18 per cent of their drinking water leaked away every day because of ancient, deteriorating pipes.  Where clean water seeps out, contaminants often seep in.  Virtually every American city is in desperate need of repairs to its water system.  The same is true for aging sewage removal and treatment systems.

Thanks to Bush's tax cuts, cities and states can't afford to fix these things. 

Deregulation of polluting industries and wink-wink non-enforcement of existing laws and regulations have created massive environmental damage that needs to be repaired.  Water tables corrupted by mining and drilling, streams poisoned by mountaintop removal, rivers befouled by runoff -- these things are fixable if we act now.

A year after government saved the big banks and their executive bonuses, it is time for real economic stimulus: federal funds that will put Americans back to work fixing the things that threaten our health, safety and daily lives.


Whirlpool, the appliance manufacturer, received 19 million of those taxpayer stimulus dollars the Administration is so proud of.  Whirlpool is thanking working Americans by closing a refrigerator manufacturing plant in Evansville, Ind., putting more than 1,100 people out of work. Whirlpool will continue to produce the refrigerators -- in Mexico. Muy bueno, Amigo!

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