Recovery: The Proof is in the Pudding at the Worksite

In my last post, I cited a New York Times story that indicated that most economists think the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is helping to create jobs and stimulate our economy. Earlier this week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed the economists’ findings.  

According to the CBO, in the third quarter of this year alone, 600 thousand to 1.6 million jobs were directly created or saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, reducing our country’s unemployment rate by 0.3 to 0.9 percent. This is an especially important finding for my home state of California, which at 12.3 percent, suffers from the third worst unemployment rate in the nation.

Indeed, it’s worth noting that the CBO report does not measure indirect job creation. Jobs created through most sub-contractors and vendors are not included in the report nor are the jobs created at local businesses when 1.6 million Americans have sufficient wages to put their money back into the economy.

They say all politics is local, and that may or may not be true, but it’s certainly the case that all jobs are local. When I talk to constituents, I hear from understandably frustrated people who think the stimulus has been ineffective. I understand that 1.6 million jobs created is just a statistic when you are still unemployed, when your family is still struggling, when your phone is ringing off the hook from relentless creditors, when you’re falling behind in your rent or mortgage payments.

More solutions over the flip…

Even for these individuals, the stimulus passed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats back in February has improved things. When 1.6 million more people are gainfully employed, the challenging job climate for those still unemployed is a little bit easier. When 1.6 million more people are able to put food on the table from their own wages, the reduced usage of government and non-profit assistance means more resources are available for families still struggling in this difficult economy. When half the stimulus package has yet to be distributed, many families are not yet aware that help is on the way.

Nevertheless, when 15.7 million Americans are unemployed, including well over 30,000 people in the 10th Congressional District, I know our work in Congress is far from done. Yesterday, I joined my Democratic colleagues on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to highlight the findings of a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) that identified 9,500 “ready-to-go” highway, bridge, transit, port, rail, and aviation projects worth more than $69 billion that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs if we funded them in Congress.

We know that in an economic downturn, governments are well advised to invest in their infrastructure, employing people in the present to lay down the building blocks for future economic growth. In California, AASHTO identified 120 projects worth more than $4 billion that, with federal approval, would get thousands of newly employed boots on the ground in 120 days or fewer.

Crumbling roads throughout my home state are delaying commutes, slowing down freight traffic, impeding the attractiveness of bus travel, and discouraging area residents from engaging in commerce. A more robust investment in our public transportation networks would also do much to reduce congestion, better integrate public transit, and help us reach our carbon emission goals. In the three town halls I will be hosting this Saturday in my district, I know the deteriorating status of our region’s transportation infrastructure will be a frequent topic of discussion from constituents.

Today, President Obama holds his jobs summit, and based on public reports, the importance of more investment in transportation will not go unnoticed. My Democratic colleagues in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have alerted the President of our desire to move ahead with many of AASHTO’s recommendations. Working together, we will produce a number of bills in the coming months that will continue our important work rebuilding an economy left in shatters following eight years of neglect and misguided priorities.

While you may not agree with every bill passed by Congress or every decision made by the President, when I say that we take our responsibility as incubators of a better economy seriously, I hope you’ll take me at my word. If not, the proof is in the pudding of the lunches of the 600 thousand to 1.6 million people now employed because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) represents California’s 10th Congressional District. You can follow Congressman John Garamendi on his new Twitter and Facebook accounts.