Saturday, February 14, 2009

And There Was Much Rejoicing

The stimulus bill finally passed both houses of Congress this weekend and President Obama will sign it into law early this coming week. On many levels, I'm relieved. From a political standpoint this is Obama's first big legislative victory, but more importantly I think it can have a real impact on the economy. In the short term, it can put people to work through public works projects that have been long overdue. Long term, the health care, education and infrastructure projects will pay dividends many years into the future--better roads and improved transportation coupled with broadband connectivity can link rural communities to larger urban areas, and green projects will help build a new energy economy and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

This is also a win for Congressman Perriello, who will have his first bill, the CLASS Act, pass into law as part of the stimulus. This will improve access to tax credits for higher education funding and allow greater opportunity for students throughout the country to go to college. Go Tom!

But all of this comes with a caveat: this thing better work. Every Democratic congressman and senator needs to direct as much of this stimulus to their districts as possible--and I mean legitimate, crucial, tangible improvements to the lives of their constituents. Things that can't be called "pork." In 2010, a Democrat driving through his or her district has to point to Stimulus High School and say, "Yeah, we spent a lot of money, but your kids have a modern school building and good teachers. And this road I'm driving on, which brought in new companies? You're welcome." 

Throughout this debate, I've been just as puzzled as I was frustrated that House Republicans were so obstructionist, even after the president extended a bipartisan hand. If the bill had failed and the economy worsened (as many think it will), the country would blame them. They're betting that the stimulus won't help and they'll have a compelling argument in 2010--even though their plan would have run up just as much debt without producing direct results. We got a stimulus by the skin of our teeth, thanks to the three remaining moderates in the Senate's GOP caucus. This is a monumental opportunity. Let's not squander it.

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