Tags: recovery | GDP | jobless

Give Unemployed Jobs to Rebuild Infrastructure

Tuesday, 03 Nov 2009 04:38 PM

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I’m no economist, but a strong showing for the gross domestic product tells me we are no longer in a recession, even if some of the increase is attributable to the government’s huge spending in that period.

The news came in the Oct. 30 New York Times: “The nation’s gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the quarter that ended in September, matching its average growth rate of the last 80 years.”

The nation doesn’t feel secure, however, and the reason is obvious. Our unemployment rate is at 9.8 percent. If you count the unemployed people who are no longer looking for jobs, the actual rate is much higher.

During my mayoralty, particularly during the earlier years, I often told critics who wanted government to do more that, if a person had a job, that individual could handle most other problems without government help. I still believe that to be true.

That is why it is disappointing that the federal government has not, as it did in the '30s under FDR, come up with job programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corp, the Public Works Administration, and the Works Progress Administration. I am not suggesting make-work programs.

I am proposing much-needed programs to deal with the nation’s crumbling infrastructure such as its bridges, roads, and power grid.

Again, I am not an expert, but I constantly read of the deteriorating quality of our drinking water, a problem that needs attention and funding. Also, why don’t we have bullet trains like Japan and France capable of speeds of 200 miles an hour?

I could go on and on but by now it is clear that much work needs to be done to strengthen our nation for the decades ahead. Economists have told us that there is always a lag, sometimes lasting years, between economic recovery indicators such as increases in the gross domestic product and the reduction in unemployment. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

I was struck by the column of Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times of Oct. 29 in which he points out that, “for the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there.” I would prefer that the billions of dollars that it would cost to fund the stationing of 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan — there are 68,000 there now — be used to put unemployed Americans to work here.

To date, we have spent $915 billion on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. That is more money than the projected aggregate costs of the Baucus Senate insurance legislation for 10 years. The Obama administration would, in my judgment, be advancing America’s future by withdrawing from both Iraq and Afghanistan now and putting the money saved into infrastructure rebuilding programs here in the United States that would put millions of Americans back to work.

Are there many Americans who support our remaining in Afghanistan for 14 more years, as some in the military say would be required to win, whatever winning means?

The people of Iraq and Afghanistan will have to decide their own futures. President Benjamin Harrison said it first, in 1888: “We Americans have no commission from God to police the world.” In the case of Iraq, Shiites and Sunnis will have to decide to stop killing one another. In the case of Afghanistan, the different ethnic tribes will have to decide if they wish to unite and create a nation.

The Times of Nov. 2 reported, “In October, 453 Iraqi civilians and security personnel were killed, an increase from a monthly low this year of 379 in September but considerably below the high of 677 in April, according to the Interior Ministry.”

We should get out now. The faster the better, serving two purposes: saving the lives of American soldiers, and freeing up financial resources so we can put them to use to address our serious economic problems at home.

Both Parties Should Pick Candidates to Throw Bums Out

I was an honoree at the Citizens Union dinner on Oct. 29. Its director, Dick Dadey, talked during his report that evening about the group's interest in addressing the corruption and stagnation plaguing the New York Legislature.

In my remarks to those assembled, I proposed that the Citizens Union seek out five Democrats and five Republicans, all recognized leaders of the highest achievement and impeccable integrity, to begin the political reform process within each party. Those leaders would be charged with running suitable candidates to unseat incumbents in their primaries.

In 1948, leaders of the Democratic Party, e.g., Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Lehman, Robert Wagner, and Thomas Finletter, began the effort to cleanse the Democratic Party and were successful in toppling Carmine DeSapio, county leader of Tammany Hall, who controlled the politics of Manhattan, and Bronx County Leader Charley Buckley. That was more than 50 years ago. Regrettably, politics in New York City and New York state have in large part reverted to what they were.

The time for change is now.

We learned last week that a junior staff member's error on the House Ethics Committee made public a document listing all of the continuing inquiries of the committee investigating members of Congress. That listing, according to The New York Times of Oct. 30 contained “the names of more than two dozen members of Congress whose conduct had come into question, along with the statements of those investigations.”

Also, reported The Times, “The Washington Post, which reported Thursday evening in an article on its Web site that it had a copy of the memorandum, said the document indicated that at least seven lawmakers are the focus of a previously announced investigation into earmarks given to military contractors at the request of a now-defunct Washington lobbying firm, the PMA Group. The lawmakers are five Democrats – John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana, James P. Moran of Virginia, Norm Dicks of Washington and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio — and two Republicans, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas and C.W. Bill Young of Florida.”

In addition, reported The Times, the Ethics Committee announced last week that it was beginning “full investigations into two House members, Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson,” both of California.

How long will the citizens of this great country allow the members of Congress to betray their trust and breach their duties to the American people?

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