Saturday, January 24, 2009

Not the change we need...

So, remember how I said that I expected an Obama administration to make significant investments in alternative energy and infrastructure but to not address economic inequality and the repairing of our tattered safety net? That my biggest concern about Obama was the neo-liberal bent of his economic policy?

Well, l guess I was right to be concerned, and a little too optimistic as well. It looks like that big infrastructure investment in Obama's stimulus package adds up to a whole bunch of not so much. Only 7% of the package directly involves infrastructure projects (you can boost the percentage up to 18% if you stretch the definition). 33% of the package, on the other hand, is, wait for it...

Tax cuts.

Moreover, according to Representative Peter Defazio, infrastructure funding in the package was gutted to allow for more tax cuts.

I strongly urge you watch Rachel Maddow's interview with Defazio, which clearly explains how infrastructure investment stimulates the economy in a way that tax cuts do not, and how the new administration is compromising with a discredited and greatly outnumbered Republican Congressional delegation. Among other things, Defazio points out that the infrastructure investment in Obama's proposal equals just one-fifteenth of what China has committed to spend in the same period and won't even come close to addressing our country's urgent needs.

This is just embarrassing.

Defazio hopes that by sounding the alarm, we can hold President Obama to his stated commitment to infrastructure investment and restore at least some of what was cut. He makes the point that the problem is in the Senate, not the House, and that the first and best Clinton Administration budget was passed without the vote of a single Republican Senator. Nowadays, I'm guessing there are a few Republican Senators who would be happy to come on board a bold proposal to rebuild and invest in America.

Politics may be the art of compromise, but starting from a compromised position will never result in anything bold.

President Obama arrives in office with the highest approval rating of any incoming President in decades. He was elected because people desperately want real change, not just hopey rhetoric. There's no reason not to be bold.

If not now, when?

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