Whose Stimulus Package?

Jo Ann Hardesty

The US Congress plans to pass a stimulus package in the next few days of over $700 Billion dollars. Before we open the beer (champagne is to expensive now) let's take a moment to figure out who will benefit and who will be left out in the cold.  

Nothing wrong with:
  • People who have recently been laid off getting about $25 extra bucks in their unemployment check.
  • More people will be able to get food stamps.
  • Unemployment benefits will be extended for a longer period of time 
  • Some people who are unemployed will be able to get health care (though it looks like a lot less at this point)
  • Some youth will get between $400-$5,200 more in pell grants 
  • Married working couples will get $1,000 tax cut   
Clearly of the 3.5 million people who have lost their jobs since October, over a 1/2 million just last month alone this will help a bit. Giving students in college a little more help also will help a bit.  And while these dollars are desperately needed by those in the situation above.  It will not create jobs that will put these folks back to work.

However the big money in this package is for transportation, infrastructure improvements at schools & colleges and creating green jobs.

This area is the least defined but has the greatest potential to reshape our economy for generations to come.   I want the bulk of this effort to focus on making sure that EVERYONE has an opportunity to benefit from this money that our grand kids will be paying back. 

My observation of these work sites in my 19 years in Oregon is that they don't represent all the folks who live in our community.  Women, people of color, youth, ex-felons, immigrants & refugee's and others all need the same opportunities to be part of this new economy, from the beginning, not as an afterthought.

Folks in construction have suffered from this economic downturn and I am sure they are overjoyed that Congress will finally act to pass this package.  My concern though is what about the rest of us.

This includes the millions who have loss service sector jobs, those who are underemployed and doing anything and everything legal to keep food on the tables.  That includes the folks who have been suffering from the economic downturn long before the market crashes of 2008. 

Many who need an economic stimulus package are homeless, skill-less, ex-felons and youth and of course the people of color who have been left due to the institutional racism that is pervasive in our society.  What is the specific proposals and more importantly dollars identified and targeted for this population to effectively benefit from this package?

Don't they deserve to be part of a new economy?  Shouldn't they have access to job training and supports while they develop new skills that will help to build a new economy?

While I am cautiously optimistic these funds could give us the resources to build an economy that serves the diverse needs of our community, the only talk I hear from policy makers at the federal, state and local level leads me to believe that creativity has left the room.

Doing what we have always done with this opportunity will give us the same results we have always gotten.  

Oregon can and must do better!  Now is the time to but our liberal leanings into specific proposals that will improve the lives of all Oregonians


Comments

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    I don't know why type pad didn't state this post was from me. As always I want to take the credit and the hits for my post

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    Whose or Who's? Doesn't quite make sense to me.

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    I figure it out. of course it was me and not type pad.

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    mrfearless47,

    Out of the entire post, that is your only thought?

  • 妖怪 (unverified)
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    Can Oregon do anything that isn't harmful to minorities? I think pretty much every post you've made reaches the conclusion that we're not embracing enough diversity somehow.

  • AdmiralNaismith (unverified)
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    Will women, people of color, ex-felons and the homeless not benefit from better transportation, infrastructure, and green jobs?

    For one thing, if I must generalize about classes, it seems to me those groups may be more likely to rely on public transportation, and to be impacted by the pollution that seems to always be concentrated in the less-privileged neighborhoods.

    Are those groups less likely to need food stamps and unemployment? Are they less likely to need grants for school? Are they less likely to be part of a working family in need of assistance?

    Is there anything in particular you'd want to add to the stimulus package that would help those groups? If it meant taking out something that's already there, what would you eliminate? I'd be up for replacing some of the tax cuts with something better, but what?

  • (Show?)

    Reminds me of a poem I once heard...

    The poor complain, they often do, but that's just idle chatter. The system works, it works for all, at least for all that matter.
  • Tom Vail (unverified)
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    Jo Ann,

    You might be playing a bit fast and loose with the statistics. You are not Nancy Pelosi (500,000,000 jobs lost) but you have erred and might want to change it.

    I think you will find that there were approximately 3,000,000 jobs lost in all of 2008, not just since October as you state. Add that to almost 600,000 in January this year to get your 3.5 million number.

    The exageration robs you of any credibility. Isn't 580,000 jobs lost last month enough for you?

  • Evan Barrows (unverified)
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    Just remember, no matter how much money is thrown at this, it will never be able to bring the economy back. Your essay reminds me of someone pitching a penny into a fountain and making a wish that will never come true. Look at the facts: Our economy has always been uniquely capitalistic, it is the sole reason why we are the most powerful country in the world, it's not a coincidence. Handing out money is counter-intuitive to what this country has sustained itself with since it's inception. We don't need this stimulus bill to bring things back, we just need the government to get out of the way of entrepeneurs and business of all sizes. There will always be rich, middle class and poor in a capitalistic market but there will always be opportunities for those with the drive and ambition to go out and work hard for it. Countries that take the more socialist approach of giving stuff away to everybody and helping everybody only make their economy's stagnant and no one really prospers. I know it sounds good, and it feels good to think that Obama wants to create this kind of equality in American socio-economics. The truth is, you can give free healthcare, money and tax-credits to people who don't even pay taxes, but it will never motivate those people to take better care of their health, find a job or make enough money so that they would have to pay taxes. So I say, let's save the money and let real capitalism take us out of this rut. In 24 months, without a stimulus package, the American economy will be back on the upswing. With a stimulus bill, it might come back too but my guess is that it will get worse after all the roads and bridges are built and we are left with this enormous debt to pay back. I know that you are hanging your hat on Obama and I appreciate the hope that you have, but I think it will be very clear in 4 years that he can't deliver us to the land of milk and honey, only deeper in debt and a lot less safe.

  • Roy M (unverified)
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    "This includes the millions who have loss service sector jobs, those who are underemployed and doing anything and everything legal to keep food on the tables".

    And you include felons as part of this group? Calling that socialism would be kind.

  • Israel Bayer (unverified)
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    My opinion is that if money doesn't trickle down to the folks on the ground working w/people on the beat - an already overburdened system coupled with a new wave of folks - things are going to get Really bad. And I'm an optimist.

    If there's not adequate funds to increase both Section 8 and offer improvements and the stabilization of already existing public housing units than we're at a big loss.

    Plus the entire tax-credit system for housing, including affordable has to be seriously rethought. We haven't been able to figure out a formula for creating 0-30 percent MFI housing prior to the economies drop - now it's not just finding a formula, but how do we stop the bleeding so non-profits (housing providers, developers and homeless agencies) don't start dropping like flies. Cash forecasts don't look good and if you're a non-profit relying on the tax-credit system, it's even worse.

    In Portland, it's my belief that there's a cautious optimism at City Hall and at the County around the idea that the Feds are going to save those impending realities. It's also my believe that that's not going to happen, at least at the level we need to be sustainable and consistent to sure up the levees.

    If we're not being creative, people will die on our streets and it's that simple.

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    Roy - Does it make society more or less safe if people who have served their time cannot make an honest living?

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Roy

    They paid their debt to society, have you?

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    Look at the facts: Our economy has always been uniquely capitalistic, it is the sole reason why we are the most powerful country in the world, it's not a coincidence.

    That is not a fact, it's a myth. America's economy was built through a public-private partnership in which government -- including Republicans like Eisenhower and Lincoln -- invested billions in infrastructure such as roads and railroads, and provided seed money for technologies that were then leveraged by industry.

    Our most rapid economic periods of economic growth (e.g., 1950's) and came during protectionist periods when the top tax rate was extremely high.

    I'm not saying that's necessarily a recipe for success today, but let's not deny the fact that the automobile would not have had the impact it has had on society if government had not invested in roads, or that the internet would not be ubiquitous as it is today in the absence of investment through DARPA and other research grants that established the technology, and more importantly the standards, that have fueled a great deal of our economic growth.

  • Israel Bayer (unverified)
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    A short list of being able to help on affordable housing and poverty.

    • Obviously supporting the current document recording fee winding it's way though the process in Salem.

    • A real estate transfer fee. I know this is not a popular one and seems counterintuitive w/the current state of the real estate market. But, if the proper regulations are being maintained by banks and lenders buying a home at a certain price shouldn't be hit to hard. A nominal fee for homes purchased at say, 350K and above could go to affordable housing. Plus, if and when the market rebounds, we would have a solid revenue stream for the future.

    • Section 8 housing: Cut the red tape for private landlords to house Section 8 recipients. Close any loopholes that allow private landlords not to rent to poor folk. Create an army of outreach workers/advocates on the ground to help individuals navigate a wack system and work one on one w/landlords to expediate the voucher process.

    • And I know this won't be popular, but look at alternative options for shifting Urban Renewal Area money from one district or region of a city to another to build more affordable housing. If one URAs costs are through the roof and another's is barely crawling - than there should be a formula created to channel that money on the ground to jump start projects to help poor and working people.

    • Invest heavily into economic development attached to large systems in motion - 10-year plan to end homelessness, Section 8 folks, poor and working immigrants, etc., etc. Folks who are homeless and have a physical and mental abilities don't have any real options for employment, period. There's a whole lot of broken people out there who have the capacity to give everything they have or to contribute with a narrowly focused craft. Unless we think out of the box for these workers, it's a hard knock life.

    -

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Folks, this stimulus is not about evening out all social inequities. It's Keynesian economics, pump priming. When the income stream shuts down, you need to prime the pump. You put people to work in public works projects and building infrastructure. It's Obama's New Deal redux, only he's trying to head off the Great Depression before it gets as bad as the Great Depression. If that happens, then we will be equal, equally poor, and equally impoverished.

  • Jim (unverified)
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    " Handing out money is counter-intuitive to what this country has sustained itself with since it's inception."--Evan Barrows

    Maybe I am missing some subtle irony here, but what planet are you on? How much money does the Pentagon dole out every year? Like your computer? That comes from handed out money. Planes? Handed out money.

    Or is this one of those definitions of capitalism that is true only after you eliminate 90% of what makes the US economy go?

  • Roy M (unverified)
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    "Roy - They paid their debt to society, have you"?

    Yes

    "Roy - Does it make society more or less safe if people who have served their time cannot make an honest living"?

    Of course, but do it by supporting and building the businesses that may hire those folks. Meanwhile, focus first on our youth and other at risk folks to keep them from becoming felons.

    By the way...one can be a felon or an ex offender, but never an "ex-felon" unless otherwise officially pardoned for their crime(s).

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    Admiral- Why shouldn't job training, support dollars and living wage jobs be part of getting these people to work? Shouldn't these folks have an opportunity to train for living wage jobs through a new economy including green jobs, or are the people who currently work in these industries entitled to all the jobs these funds create.

    Tom- The 3.5 million jobs lost is not my number. This number has been published almost daily in our daily paper over the last week. I don't want to be Pelosi I simply want to make sure that if all our grandchildren have to pay this money back. That this is truly a full employment act and not just for a few.

    and post with symbols: You ask can Oregon every do anything that doesn't harm minorities? I hope so, but I continue to be optimistic, especially after last weeks economic summit, that we can and must do better. When would you rather have the conversation-after the money is spent-or when good people can find a way to make sure all who suffer in our community benefit in some way. I'd rather have the conversation now because if not-we will get what we have always got.

    Israel: You have some great ideas that I hope those in a position to implement will tackle. Unfortunately no one appears to be having this conversation (except we are now) We need creative thinking to make sure that we don't end up with a packet where poor people get food stamps and others get living wage jobs.

    Roy: Asked if ex-felons were included well of course. Shouldn't people who have paid their debt have a change to earn an honest living? Or as a society do we believe if you commit a crime you no longer should be able to feed your family? What do you think should happen to people after they pay their debt?

  • Idler (unverified)
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    Every pig wants a place at the trough. Greed in action.

  • Richard (unverified)
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    Piles of money and no change.

    "Lack of money is not the problem: to keep a child in Head Start full-time, year-round cost about $22,600, as opposed to an average cost of $9,500 in a day care center.

    And that’s the big failing of the stimulus bill. In area after area, it does not require any real change in return for vast piles of money.

    Under the House version of the bill, Head Start would get an additional $2.1 billion, no strings attached. For education spending in general, states are to get tens of billions from Washington with Congress asking almost nothing in the way of reforms."

    Read the whole story at:

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    mrfearless47,

    Out of the entire post, that is your only thought?

    JoAnn:

    As a college prof (retired), I'm afraid I got so distracted by the error that it stopped me in my tracks.

    But to your point, I agree with the sentiment that everyone should benefit from the stimulus package and that nothing should be done to preclude all the "others" from getting a piece of the action. But I echo the sentiments of others that infrastructure and green (to name a few) offer opportunities to everyone, not just the elite to benefit from the package.

    I suppose I would have liked to have seen a bit more emphasis on job retraining so that the many who haven't been named as beneficiaries of this package would be able to share.

    I don't see this package as exclusionary, nor do I see it as particularly inclusive. The goal is to get more money into the economy to stimulate its growth, get people back to work, get the housing market shored up in a healthy way, and to move some benefits from the few to the many. But, it seems to me that the package has to have some limits. We simply can't open the US Treasury wide and let the dollars flow. Ultimately that strategy will come back to bite everyone and I think that right now the balancing act is between too much and too little. I'm not sure I think the number floating around is "just right", but I can say that it is far better than what the Republicans want, which amounts to taxing the poor.

    My few thoughts at the moment.

  • Roy M (unverified)
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    Jo Ann. When my son was 10 I brought him to several parts of Mexico with me. The poverty we saw there was eye opening for him. He quickly gave all of the money he had saved to folks who needed it more. Next, he wanted to distribute all of my money to them as well. It would not have gone very far, and would have only been a band aid for the real issues. My son was not very practical, but like you he has a good heart.

    My point was that there is not going to be enough to fix every ill, and the concern for felons should be way way down on our list of priorities.

  • (Show?)

    I must say I'm completely in agreement with Jo Ann on this. This stimulus package is simply too tilted towards the wealthy. And I say this as someone who is still relatively well off.

    The truth is that "Trickle Down" is nearly the opposite of what really helps economies. When you help the poorest people get off the mat, the resulting surge in economic activity will inevitably help the rich.

    We shouldn't have one penny of tax cuts in this package winding its way through Congress. But the filibuster is a potent weapon, and I agree with President Obama that a flawed bill is better than none at all.

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    Richard--Head Start failing? It's one of the most successful early ed programs we have!

    Roy, your son could teach you a lot.

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    mrfearless47-

    I appreciate your comments. I'm sure you would have failed me in your class :).

    Some days my brain is off and running and my fingers can't keep up. I agree the the package does not in and of it self exclude anyone, however, with such a narrow view of the employment available through this package it would be very easy for those who are normally not at the table to be excluded.

    My experience is if it isn't in the legislation, and we leave it up to the powers that be then the needs and aspirations of people of color, women, immigrants, refugees and others not at the table will not be discussed or acted upon.

    It's insulting when we talk about providing jobs for some and unemployment benefit food stamps and health care for the rest. People don't want food stamps and health care alone. They want to be trained into a job that will provide a livable wage so that they can buy their own food and their own health care. They want to be part of the solution, not sitting on the sidelines getting the crumbs that are left.

    Roy,

    It looks like you have done an excellent job raising a compassionate son. It always amazes me how youth understand inequality much quicker than their parents. I agree with you that this package is not intended to solve all the ills in our society, however, how we use these funds will say a lot about our community values and our role in creating a new economy.

    Why are there no new ideas for our economy floating around our governments? Probably because we have most of the same players making the decisions.

    Steve-

    Thanks for the support!

  • Jiang (unverified)
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    The truth is that "Trickle Down" is nearly the opposite of what really helps economies.

    So true, but that's because it's the opposite of how the world works. The metaphor implies gravity. In human societies, though, the beginnings are less stratefied, moving more towards a classed society as it evolves. There is a natural, destructive tendency, for all resources to move upward. Trickle down implies that it is like shooting a hose into a second story window. Some water will inevitably hit the ground. It's not. It's like shooting the hose at the ground and waiting for water to pool in the second story window.

    It's an IQ test. Can the masses see they're being ripped again? Tinkle Down economics is no different than a Polynesian tribal king taking a dump in public. It's about status.

  • The Intellectual Redneck (unverified)
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    According to the CBO, the stimulus bill will actually hurt the economy in the long run. However, there is the possibility it will stimulate illegal immigration. In addition to providing up to 300 thousand construction jobs for illegal aliens, the bill will bail out irresponsible states like California. This will allow them to avoid dealing with one of the primary reasons they have a budget deficit. That reason is the extensive and expensive social net they have extended to illegal immigrants. Obama's stimulus will stimulate illegal immigration

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    Redneck,

    Your comments counter the first name in your post.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    Hmmm,

    My observation of these work sites in my 19 years in Oregon is that they don't represent all the folks who live in our community. Women, people of color, youth, ex-felons, immigrants & refugee's and others all need the same opportunities

    Would these people of color you mention have to be of a certain hue? The missing immigrants you mention would wouldn't happen to be of a legal variety? Considering that I've watched illegal hiring of brown people slash construction wages and cut legal black people out of the pool some of this seems oddly directed.

    I do not suggest that women are under-represented in construction, but I do wonder how much of that under-representation is self induced. When construction paid at 1980 level there was a paycheck inducement to do it, despite its nature, today not so much. Even when construction paid well most people went into something else even paying less, for a good reason - the nature of the work. Most of construction is quite physical and dirty, that doesn't work well for people, of whatever gender, that don't want that. There are some biological realities to consider, across the average men are stronger for their weight, that is an issue if you are not strong enough.

    I will give you a concrete example, it is frequently required in my job to carry 90# bundles of shingles 20 feet up a ladder and move them up a roof slope too steep to stand on. If you cannot do that, whatever gender, why would you be hired to do it? This is a bit exceptional, but illustrative. Then ask yourself why you would want to do that?

    As for the wealth end of it, there isn't much in infrastructure building that a small shop like mine can bid, just plain can't do it. But my small shop counts on people who work for the companies who can bid it to be able to afford my services. That isn't trickle down, that is paychecks paying for further employment. I know a car dealer who needs my services, he can't afford it because people aren't buying cars, some sold cars would really help my circumstances.

  • Evan Barrows (unverified)
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    Jim, your rebuttal to my statement about hand-out money is interesting. So did the Bill Packard take Pentagon money to build the computers in his garage? (You should visit Silicon Valley and check out the Tech Museum sometime) Not that it was relevant to my point, which was simply that there is no substitute for the enterprising spirit of Americans. I don't see enterprising in the current equation. All I see are lobbyists with their hands out and every unfortunate, formerly disenfranchised soul in America are lining up to get their free money that will...what? Somehow lift them from poverty and set them up for future riches?

    I would like to get your opinion on universal healthcare as it has been framed by the left. Would you care to give your take on that? Will nationalizing healthcare be good for the majority?

  • (Show?)

    Jim, your rebuttal to my statement about hand-out money is interesting. So did the Bill Packard take Pentagon money to build the computers in his garage?

    Dave Packard and Bill Hewlitt never built computers in their garage. They built audio oscillators in their garage.

    By the time they were building computers, they were already a well-established company thanks to major contracts with the United States Navy and other Federal agencies building sonar equipment.

    More to the point, the research laboratories where they were educated -- Stanford, MIT, General Electric, and Bell Laboratories received hundreds of millions of dollars from the DOD and other federal agencies to develop the technologies that went into the computers that they eventually did build.

    You can pretend that these folks "just did it all on their own". It's a nice myth, but the reality is that they stood on the shoulders of giants, and much of the seed money for the development of early computers and most of the technology that forms the basis for their widespread commercial popularity -- internet protocols such as HTTP, SMTP, even computer languages -- and the technologies that are used to implement those protocols came into existence because of government investment.

    I'm old enough to have studied networking and trusted systems architectures from the original DOD standards books, so you aren't going to have an easy time convincing me that government was not at front and center of computers and the internet.

  • Jim (unverified)
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    Sal pretty well answered the query as to building computers in their garage, leaving out that some of those parts for the oscillators also found genesis in the Pentagon.

    As to nationalizing healthcare, this is hardly an issue on "the left" as you call it. The issue is single payer health insurance that guarantees everybody can get healthcare. The classic canard of "the right" is to examine England's system. This has two benefits for them. One, it concentrates on national healthcare instead of national health insurance, and two, it allows for ignorance of the French and Danish systems, just to name a couple.

    So, my opinion on national healthcare is that it is a red herring. National single payer health insurance is the issue, and I am all for it. And I have yet to see one study that shows we (the people) would be the worse off for it. Or, I should say, one study based in reality, something studiously ignored by its opponents.

  • (Show?)

    The costs involved in the stimulus package can be avoided for the most part (other than infrastructure and alt. energy production)!

    I have a sure fire way to increase employment of Americans in America! I can guarantee a minimum of six million jobs. The way to this nirvana is very simple.

    All the government has to do is stage a roundup of illegal aliens at their places of employment simultaneously all across the United States, acting under existing laws, and deporting all of those apprehended as quickly as is humanly possible. Illegal alien spouses of those apprehended would be in the second tranche. Miscellaneous non-apprehended illegal aliens who are gainfully employed would be in the third tranche along with their illegal alien spouses.

    With a minimum of 12 million illegal aliens infecting our economy, it should be easy to free up 6 million job vacancies and equally easy to replace them with legal, taxpaying, American citizens. Exceptions would be limited to agricultural workers but they would have to do the work on a guest basis and leave when the work is done.

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