Congress must act swiftly on stimulus initiatives
In a sobering address from George Mason University yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama made a pointed appeal to Congress to get off the dime and move on his sweeping stimulus package.
Lawmakers would do well to listen.
In no uncertain terms, Obama underscored something that business and consumers across America are already coming to terms with: Unless something is done — and fast — "this recession could linger for years."
It's encouraging to see Obama out front pushing a plan, even before he officially takes the helm on Jan. 20. This in stark contrast to the silence from the White House in the wake of a $700 billion bailout package that still has taxpayers and analysts waiting for the slightest signs of relief.
Against that backdrop, Obama's two-year $800 billion stimulus plan deserves urgent and careful review. It wisely combines short-term infusions and longer-term economic investments in the form of renewable energy projects and other infrastructure and healthcare improvements. These projects rightly would dovetail with sensible and sustainable values: doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years and working on energy efficiency; reducing red tape in our healthcare system and computerizing medical records; and ensuring our schools, community colleges and public universities have decent classrooms, labs, libraries and technology.
To kick-start the economy, Obama suggests $300 billion in tax cuts. About $150 billion of that would be targeted toward consumers in the form of reduced federal tax withholdings that would reportedly amount to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families.
Already, congressional committee leaders are smartly questioning whether reducing withholding would prove any more effective than last year's rebate check distribution, particularly if the savings were spread over time.
The plan also includes about $150 billion in credits for businesses. Companies that lost money last year would be able to claim credits against those losses for five years, rather than the current two-year policy. And businesses would receive a one-time tax credit for hiring new workers, plus incentives to invest in new equipment.
Congress should ensure that any tax credits for job creation come with safeguards and oversight that includes a clear plan for enforcement.
Indeed, Congress has the crucial task of carefully vetting these proposals — but with unprecedented transparency and urgency. Taxpayers should demand nothing less.
So it's disappointing to hear Congressional leaders, who had hoped to have a plan ready for Obama to sign on the day he takes office, promptly push back their internal deadline to mid-February at the earliest.
As Obama puts it: "For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs; more families will lose their savings; more dreams will be deferred and denied; and our nation will sink deeper into crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse."
Lawmakers would do well to listen to that clarion call for action. The price of partisan sniping and division fueling further delays is one we simply cannot afford.