March 2010

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Double-Talk on the Recovery Act

When Congress passed President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package last year to help revive the economy, a grand total of three congressional Republicans—out of a total of 218—voted for it. The GOP denounced the bill as irresponsible big government spending. But as an article in the Washington Times (a conservative paper, by the way) recently pointed out, this didn't stop many of those same lawmakers from seeking out Recovery Act money for their own districts.

The article points to a letter from Missouri Sen. Christopher Bond—a vociferous critic of the Recovery Act—to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting stimulus funds for a project that he said would "create jobs and ultimately spur economic opportunities."

Bond's colleague in the House, Rep. Joe Wilson—best known for his "You lie!" outburst during Obama's first address to Congress—also had no problem petitioning the federal government for stimulus money for his South Carolina district, despite his public opposition to the stimulus plan. All told, more than 90 Republican lawmakers—all opponents of Obama's bill—stealthily tried to steer federal stimulus monies to their own districts.

And many more made sure to boast to their constituents about all the stimulus funds and new jobs they brought home—all thanks to legislation they denounced in the halls of Congress.

Genuine political differences are one thing; sheer hypocrisy is something else.

Most economists agree that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped save the economy from sliding into a new Great Depression. The three best known economic research firms all estimate that the bill added nearly 2 million jobs and saved millions more.

While the stimulus bill helped to prevent total disaster, we all know more must be done.

Now Congress is debating a new jobs bill. Is the GOP serious about joining together in a genuine bipartisan manner to do what it takes to create jobs? Or will it continue to play political theater for the beltway crowd and their own extreme right-wing base? Fifteen million unemployed Americans will be watching.


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Lindell K. Lee
International Secretary-Treasurer