By Laurent F. Gilbert Sr.
Mayor of Lewiston
I’m mad as hell that the Senate Republicans killed President Barack Obama’s “American Jobs Act” upon its arrival in the U.S. Senate. Although the procedural vote passed by a 51-48, it needed 60 votes that would override a filibuster.
I’m mad as hell that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in October 2010 that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
He repeated it again on a Fox News Sunday program when asked about the charge made by Democrats that the Republicans are purposefully sabotaging the economy for political gain in 2012. He first admitted it by responding, “Well, that’s true,” then continued by saying that Republicans want to fix the economy first.
I’m mad as hell that the House Majority Republicans have the same goals. Simply look back to when they took control. They not only say “no,” but “Hell, no!” to quote the Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.
I must admit the Republicans have been very effective in blocking President Obama’s attempts to bring back a robust economy. There is little wonder why Congress’s approval ratings are in the teens. It is clearly obvious that their sole purpose is Mitch McConnell’s “single most” goal to defeat President Obama at any price.
Well, folks, that price is us, the American people, and most importantly those who are unemployed. When Congress should be working with the President for your benefit, they simply will let you suffer in order to achieve political gain. There is no debate; they have said it themselves.
Let’s look at the American Jobs Act, which has five key components. They are:
Tax cuts to help America’s small businesses hire and grow;
Putting workers back on the job while rebuilding and modernizing America;
Pathways back to work for Americans looking for jobs;
More money in the pockets of every American worker and family;
Fully paid for as part of the president’s long-term deficit reduction plan.
Almost daily, I receive communications from the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). The nation’s bi-partisan mayors have throughout our economic downturn advocated for a Main Street-focused jobs agenda. Much of what it advocated to President Obama in its “Common-Sense Jobs Agenda” is contained in the President’s plan.
Below are some of the highlights of the USCM’s review of the American Jobs Act:
• $50 billion for immediate investments in transportation infrastructure, including $27 billion for highway/highway safety, $9 billion for transit, $2 billion for passenger rail and $2 billion for airport improvement grants.
• $10 billion for innovative financing, directing $4 billion to support the development of high-speed rail corridors, $1 billion for NextGen Air Traffic Modernization efforts, and $5 billion for the TIGER and TIFIA programs, which provide funds on a competitive basis for multi-modal transportation investments.
• $10 billion to capitalize a National Infrastructure Bank to be directed by an independent, non-partisan board with expertise in finance and managing and operating infrastructure providing resources across a broad range of eligibilities (e.g., transportation infrastructure, water infrastructure, and energy infrastructure).
• $5 billion to preserve first responder jobs to support the hiring and retention of public safety personnel. We have been told that $4 billion is for COPS grants, and $1 billion for SAFER firefighter grants.
• $5 billion for a “Pathways Back to Work” fund to provide hundreds of thousands of low-income youth and adults with job training. The Initiative includes funding for: 1) Summer and year-round jobs for youth; 2) Subsidized employment opportunities for low-income individuals who are unemployed, building off the successful TANF Emergency Contingency Fund wage subsidy program; and 3) Promising and innovative local work-based job and training initiatives to place low-income adults and youths in jobs quickly.
• $49 billion to help the long-term unemployed includes innovative work-based reforms to prevent layoffs and give states greater flexibility to use UI funds to best support job-seekers.
• $15 billion for Project Rebuild to employ construction workers to rehabilitate and refurbish hundreds of thousands of vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses. Using proven approaches to stabilizing neighborhoods with high concentration of foreclosures, Project Rebuild will draw on expertise and capital from the private sector, focus on commercial and residential property improvements, and expand innovative solutions such as land banks.
• $30 billion to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers and support the hiring of tens of thousands more. This funding would be directed to local school districts.
• $25 billion in school infrastructure to modernize at least 35,000 public schools in urban and rural areas: investments to create jobs, improve classrooms and upgrading schools through energy efficiency and other measures.
• $5 billion to modernize community colleges.
• $70 billion would be available in tax cuts for small businesses that hire new workers and expand operations. The proposal calls for a 50 percent reduction on the small business employer’s share of the payroll tax, which is 6.2 percent of payroll on the first $5 million in wages. And it would temporarily eliminate the payroll tax for wages for new hires or for growth in payroll for existing workers up to $50 million. It also includes a 100 percent deduction for investments in new plants or equipment. This will put money in the hands of small businesses for immediate reinvestment in new hires.
• $8 billion would be available in tax credits for businesses that hire veterans and long-term unemployed individuals who have been looking for a job for 6 or more months. A tax credit up to $9,600 would be available to businesses that hire wounded veterans with service related disabilities, a $5,600 tax credit would be available for long-term unemployed veterans and a $4,000 tax credit would be available for long-term unemployed individuals.
• $175 billion would be available in tax cuts for 160 million workers. The employee’s share of the payroll tax, 6.2 percent, would be reduced by 50 percent. Last year the payroll tax for workers was reduced from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. This proposal would further reduce the payroll tax for workers to 3.1 percent, which will provide a tax cut of $1,500 to the typical family earning $50,000. This will increase the buying power of 160 million workers next year and serve as a significant stimulus to local economies.
The President’s plan follows bipartisan Senate legislation to expand wireless services for the public and first responders and help develop and deploy a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety. The plan includes reallocating the D Block for public safety (costing $3 billion) and directing $7 billion to support the deployment of this network to meet public safety requirements. Simply ask our local public safety chiefs and they will tell you that this is critical to their needs.
When you are in an emergency room and bleeding profusely, they give you a blood transfusion in order to keep you alive. The country is bleeding profusely and the American Jobs Act is such a blood transfusion to the country. One does not say, “Wait, I can’t afford it.” One simply has to agree that he or she “can’t afford not to receive it.”
The same applies to our country. It is high time for the transfusion that the President has proposed and that the American people want. It is high time for Congress to apply the medical doctors “Hippocratic Oath” and “do no harm” to its patient, the American people. Senators, reconsider and take the medical doctors’ oath now!
The ones who truly deserve to be put out of office are the obstructionists!
See Mayor Gilbert’s personal blog at www.MayorLarryGilbert.com.