Obama's Economic Stimulus -- Will it Take Us Where We Need to Go?
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Dear President-elect Obama,
The economic stimulus package you laid out today in your weekly radio and internet address is a great starting point—very much needed as the downward spiral of the economy takes away the breath of even the most level-headed observer.
Your plan to save or create 2.5 million jobs by investing in energy efficiency, infrastructure, and schools are all things we called for in the agenda we laid out in the Fall issue of YES!, and are all favored by a large majority of Americans.
Let's look a bit more closely at your specific plans:
"First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work."
This is an excellent place to start. Increasing the efficiency of buildings reduces greenhouse gas pollution, and cuts dependence on imported energy. It sets a higher standard for building owners to emulate, and jump starts what could be one of the best new sources of stable, family-wage employment—refurbishing the built environment for energy efficiency. And it is an investment that will quickly begin saving us tax dollars.
"Second, we will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money."
Investment in national infrastructure is desperately needed after years of neglect by leaders hostile to government projects. But we are entering a new era, when everything we build must be assessed for its climate impacts. The potential catastrophe of run-away climate meltdown could make the economic melt down look minor by comparison. Infrastructure investments must be used to build to climate friendly projects—bridges that accommodate mass transit, bike lanes, and pedestrians, for example. And roads that encourage compact communities rather than expensive and wasteful sprawl.
"Third, my economic recovery plan will launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen. We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms. Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools."
Great plan. Our kids should not be going to run-down schools that kill the spirit and signal to them that we don't care. Instead, schools should be filled with beauty and light—qualities that can improve learning and cut energy costs. More than any other group, our young people have a stake in a sustainable future, and we can rebuild schools that give them hope. While we're at it, we can address another of your top priorities, health, by connecting the schools with local farmers, so kids get healthy, fresh, local meals.
"As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m President – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world."