WASHINGTON, D.C.: President-elect Barack Obama’s plan to haul the US economy out of recession entails a hefty expansion of the US federal government—a prospect that has conservative critics aghast.
The centerpiece of the plan is Obama’s pledge to create or preserve three million jobs—of which he said “more than 80 percent” would be in the private sector.
That means up to 20 percent of the jobs would be in government, or 600,000, a sizeable addition to the roughly 2.5 million people now on the federal payroll.
Reared on President Ronald Reagan’s article of faith that “big government” is the problem, not the solution, conservative pundits accuse Obama of belatedly showing his true “liberal” colors.
“FDR had his Hundred Days; Obama was going to have his Day,” National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote, comparing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to the incoming administration’s “madcap” dash for a stimulus package.
Rush Limbaugh, the dean of right-wing talk radio, said the only way Obama and “liberal Democrats” could meet their target was to restore the draft and conscript unsuspecting small-town Americans into the military.
The irony is that Republicans under President George W. Bush oversaw an explosion in federal spending after the deficit-slashing policies of Democrat Bill Clinton, who declared the era of big government to be over.
Obama is wooing apostles of small government by promising that 40 percent of his stimulus package, which will be worth at least $775 billion, will be devoted to tax cuts.
House of Representatives minority leader John Boehner welcomed the tax proposals but said they did not go far enough.
“I remain concerned about wasteful spending that might be attached to the tax relief,” he said Monday after talks with Obama on Capitol Hill.
“Simply put, we should not bury future generations under mountains of debt and create 600,000 new government jobs . . . in the name of ‘economic stimulus,’” Boehner said.
Obama has not spelt out where those new jobs are coming from. But he has a laundry list of plans that echo FDR’s public works projects, which saw the government go on a hiring spree to cut mass unemployment in the 1930s.
The president-elect wants his stimulus spending to include highway and bridge repairs, renovations to school classrooms, aid to cash-strapped states and the expansion of broadband Internet to rural America.
The broadband plan harkens to Roosevelt’s public works, which brought reliable electricity and water supplies to rural residents, overseen by thousands more government workers on boards and planning commissions.
US jobless rates today are nowhere near as bad as in the Great Depression. But they are bad enough, with the economy shedding a stunning 533,000 jobs in November alone to send the unemployment rate to a 15-year high of 6.7 percent.
Obama said the December jobs report would deliver more dismal news when it comes out on Friday, and stressed there was not a moment to lose.
“When the American people spoke last November, they were demanding change, change in policies that helped deliver the worst economic crisis that we’ve seen since the Great Depression,” he said Tuesday after meeting his economic team, insisting the stimulus money would not be wasted.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, however, wants deeper deliberation by lawmakers and the public.
“We shouldn’t be rushed into voting for a bill that by any estimate will be bigger than all 50 state budgets combined, especially when many of the jobs it promises won’t even materialize for another year,” he said.
“Before we agree to it, the American people need to see the details. They need to be able to see for themselves whether this is money well spent.”
Meanwhile, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) urged Obama to put forward a federal economic stimulus proposal to cope with the worsening economic recession.
Schwarzenegger told Obama in a letter that there was urgent need for “a broad national economic recovery package to generate jobs and get our economy moving forward again,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
“A substantial federal stimulus program is needed to ease the impacts of the current economic downturn,” the statement quoted Schwarzenegger as telling Obama. “My administration is committed to working with you to develop strategies to revitalize our economy, put the nation on a path to energy security and help our citizens during this difficult time.”
–AFP With Xinhua