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It’s time to reflect on failure of stimulus

February 17, 2010

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the $787 billion stimulus package being signed into law. Now is the time for Congress to take stock of what’s transpired this year. It’s time to evaluate why the stimulus has been ineffective in creating jobs and to refocus on proven, bipartisan measures to rejuvenate our economy. And it’s time to work toward the recovery the American people deserve.

Americans were promised that with passage of the stimulus, the unemployment rate would not rise above 8 percent, 3.5 million jobs would be created or saved, and taxpayer dollars would be allocated prudently.

One year later, our economy has shed 3.3 million jobs, and nearly 10 percent of Americans are out of work. As for prudent investment of taxpayer dollars – $31 million to two Montana border posts that average 22 cars per day and $1.5 million to repave sidewalks outside a Michigan casino don’t pass the smell test of any hard-working American.

A stimulus must be a targeted, temporary and immediate jolt to spur economic recovery. Congress must learn from the failure of the stimulus and refocus on assembling a bipartisan package of proven solutions to get Americans back to work. This is no time for political games or just saying no. Congress must seize this moment for action.

As I continue on the House Ways and Means Committee to advocate for job-creating solutions, and as I meet with workers, families, and businesses across the 8th District and our region to understand their needs and bring their ideas back to D.C., the most effective legislation can be crafted if Congress adheres to three principles:

  • Put taxpayer money where it belongs: with taxpayers, not government officials.

One problem with the stimulus is the vast taxpayer dollars passed from federal to state bureaucrats to spend as they please rather than putting money back in the pockets of families and small businesses. The best way to deliver economic aid directly back to them, circumventing the government favor-factory, is through the tax code.

I support measures including: cutting income tax rates for the lowest two brackets to 5 and 10 percent respectively; eliminating capital gains taxes to encourage investment; tax-free savings accounts; tax credits for energy-efficiency retrofits that can create jobs and help families and businesses save on energy bills; and incentives to boost small businesses productivity, creating demand for hiring new workers instead of providing ineffective payroll credits.

  • If taxpayer money is being spent, make it transparent and accountable.

Actions Congress takes today will affect our children and grandchildren. They can’t be penalized for the unwillingness of Congress and the administration to get our fiscal house in order or control spending and the national debt. Congress must bring transparency to decisions so Americans know their hard-earned dollars are carefully spent – not sent to imaginary congressional districts.

  • Use what we’ve learned to implement proven solutions.

I commend President Barack Obama for recognizing that strong export growth is essential to job creation. Ninety-five percent of America’s customers are scattered across the globe; we must connect American goods and services with markets that demand them.

Congress can show it’s capable of learning from the past by deploying a proven catalyst of economic growth: pending free trade agreements. Pending agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama are a no-cost stimulus that can create jobs and ensure competitiveness in the global economy. Let’s get it done.

The stimulus package has received well-founded criticism from the bipartisan group of nearly 200 House members who opposed its passage – including me. But let’s be clear: No one doubts our economy was in trouble and action was needed. The problem is with the approach.

We know the danger when government rushes to act. The action taken in this case resembled a desperate bank robbery: panicked, lacking foresight, with little consideration of the consequences. We’re left with unsatisfactory results that compound the problems it set out to solve.

Anniversaries present an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and make necessary course-corrections to ensure we’re traveling the right path. Families across America continue to struggle, doing everything possible to make ends meet. They are looking for results. Congress must put aside partisan disagreements to deliver common-sense solutions to keep us on the path to prosperity.

Congressman Dave Reichert represents Washington’s 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.