Last month, Institute for America’s Future unveiled the $900 billion, two-year Main Street Recovery Program, backed by 2,000 economists, labor leaders, progressive organization and citizens.
Since then, Congress is working on it’s economic recovery plan, currently at $825 billion over two years.
Progressives have expressed concern because of the proposed business tax cuts that were not included in our Main Street Recovery Program. But besides that, how else to the two proposals compare?
As you might expect from other news reports, Congress doesn’t put in as much as we proposed for green investment (about $54B, versus our proposal of $100B) and other infrastructure (up to $140B, versus our proposal of $225B). Congress also offers less for health care, but that’s partly because it is handling expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program separately.
Yet that’s not the full story.
Congress proposed more than triple what we had concerning education (up to $141B, versus $40B), and vastly more for the unemployed (up to $100B, versus $15B). Politico had reported earlier on the big outlay for education: “The goal is to maintain services and forestall layoffs of public employees, including teachers … [and] to help stabilize state and local education budgets.”
And we are in rough agreement when it comes to aid for state governments, research & development, food stamps and poverty reduction.
Open Left’s Mike Lux recently shared the observation from leading poverty fighter Deepak Bhargava that this is the “best piece of legislation for helping poor people he had ever seen.” And Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reported that the temporary tax provisions in the House would keep 2.5 million Americans out of poverty, including 1.1 million kids.
It appears to me the difference between our approaches is in how we balance the need for short-term stimulus to blunt the current impact of recession, and the need for long-term investment to ensure a robust recovery.
Congress is more heavily tilted to addressing the immediate crisis, though that doesn’t mean they are being outright myopic about long-term needs. The investments in infrastructure, while less than what we call for, are clearly down payments. Everyone knows there is more to do. Regardless of where the current legislation ends up, we will have to keep pressing to make sure Washington follows through to fully modernize our crumbling infrastructure and transition America to a clean energy economy.
And that is not to say that Congress is getting everything right. For example, transit funds are relatively paltry, even though they could provide much short-term stimulus.
Bottom line: there is plenty of good in the current version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It can always be better, we should continue pushing for it to be bigger and bolder. But since delay is also the enemy of the economy, it is most imperative we call Congress at 1-866-544-7573, and demand this bill become law as soon as possible.