More Stimulus, Please
Leaders call on Congress to act and avoid a double-dip recession
funds, proposed in smaller, more specific bills than the $787 billion American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), could help to shore up Medicaid spending,
extend unemployment benefits, keep teachers in classrooms and continue
subsidizing COBRA health insurance policies for laid-off workers.
local and national leaders are calling for another round of domestic spending
to kick in when the original recovery funds taper off.
One such bill is the Local Jobs for America Act,
co-sponsored by Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee), which would add an
estimated 1,630 jobs in the city of Milwaukee
and another 530 jobs in the rest of the county. The bulk of the money would go
to states and local communities to create or retain jobs; the rest would be
spent on teachers, law enforcement and firefighters, according to the
Milwaukee-based Community Advocates Public Policy Institute.
job-creation bill will be passed is up in the air, and some measures have been
stripped from larger bills pending in Congress. But local leaders are calling
to act before it’s too late.
“We do need
another [round of domestic spending] or we’re going to have those massive cuts
in the number of public employees and teachers that we avoided last year during
the next year,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of
Wisconsin, which is part of the Wisconsin Alliance for Strong Communities, a
group that is urging Congress to increase spending on jobs.
Coming Back,’ Rep. Moore
Wisconsin has used its portion of ARRA funds to create
or retain about 59,000 jobs already and an estimated 70,000 total when its
funds have been distributed fully. The largest pool of money has been spent on
education—$1.2 billion, according to the state’s ARRA website—while hundreds of
millions of dollars have been spent on infrastructure, health care, energy,
workforce development and the environment.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker—who’d once said he wouldn’t submit a
list of potential projects to be funded by the stimulus—recently has boasted of
taking advantage of ARRA funding with the low-interest Build America Bonds. Walker’s campaign claims
the bonds saved county taxpayers $3 million. Walker, a Republican candidate for
governor, doesn’t promote the fact that the bonds were part of the stimulus
Thus far, Milwaukee County agencies, businesses and
residents have received $413 million in stimulus funds.
investment is largely unseen and unnoticed, since it helped to keep people on
the job and conduct business as usual. But the local coalition argues that the
funds helped to prevent another Great Depression.
Moore put it at a press conference last week, “It’s very, very difficult to
feel and understand that we’re coming back from the brink unless it touches you
She said a
tangible, high-profile sign of the impact of ARRA funds on the local economy is
Talgo’s decision to locate in Milwaukee
and assemble and maintain trains for high-speed rail. The project will create
125 permanent jobs in Milwaukee and indirectly
create up to 450 additional jobs throughout the Midwest.
The high-speed rail line, eventually to run from Chicago
is funded by the stimulus package. More than $800 million in federal funds will
be spent on Wisconsin’s
coming back,” Moore
recovery, however, is fragile and the high unemployment rate—combined with the
cutoff in stimulus funding—could lead to a double-dip recession if more federal
funds aren’t provided to cities and states.
“Some of the
effects of the stimulus are ongoing, but they’re beginning to dissipate,” said
Citizen Action’s Kraig. “They’re certainly going to dissipate when the aid
given to states and cities to prevent very deep cuts in public services ends.
Those cuts are going to kick in very soon unless there’s another major
signs of vulnerability are the proposed job cuts at Milwaukee Public Schools in
the coming school year. Legislation to fund teacher jobs around the country has
stalled in Congress. An estimated $400 million of the proposed $23 billion
would have flowed into Wisconsin
to keep teachers in the classroom. Without the funds, an estimated 680
positions will be cut in the next school year.
that the debate over domestic spending is a test of whether the federal
government can act effectively in an economic emergency.
“This is what a democratic government was created to do,” Kraig said. “It can do things the market can’t do to protect people’s livelihood and prosperity. Large corporations that caused the financial collapse are not going to resolve this problem—they have no interest in solving this problem.”