FAST!…and the Debt Ray from Outer Space

August 7th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Once again, we’re not talking about jobs.

We–the DC crowd–talked about jobs for half-a-New-York minute.  But we quickly shifted back to debt downgrades, baselines (again with the *&%!! baselines!), and tax revenues.

This is really a deeply unsettling development.  It’s one thing to argue that the political forces are solidly aligned against doing what desperately needs to be done on the jobs front.  I’m not there yet, but I get the argument.

It’s wholly another to accept that conservative, anti-Keynesian forces from outer-space are controlling our national policy debate with a hypnosis ray that forces everyone in DC to avoid debating what the rest of the country wants us to debate: how to get this economy back on track.

I know—I too have not always resisted this force.  But I’m trying.

While all this debt ceiling junk was going on, Mary Filardo, Ross Eisenbrey, and I were developing the FAST! idea—Fix America’s Schools Today.

As OTEers know, this is a national infrastructure program to repair, retrofit, insulate and “green-up” the nation’s stock of public schools.  Importantly, it’s structured to be labor-intensive (as opposed to capital-intensive–this is key in today’s infrastructure efforts), ready-to-go, based on existing formulas and practices re distribution of the resources, and highly visible in communities across the country.

It’s also scalable.  We could fix some schools and get a bunch of folks facing very high unemployment rates back to work with a $20 billion investment.  But the extent of the backlog could easily absorb hundreds of billions.

With respect to the debt-ray from outer space, we’ve identified a “payfor:” the $46 billion (over 10 years) in new revenues from closing tax preferences that go to the fossil fuel industry.  It a sensible payfor in that a central longer term goal of FAST! is greater energy efficiency, leading to energy savings for public school districts.

We’d expect a program of that magnitude to generate around half-a-million jobs.

There, I just talked about jobs and nothing bad happened to me!  Fellow wonks and policy makers: resist the debt-ray!


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9 comments in reply to "FAST!…and the Debt Ray from Outer Space"

  1. John says:

    Direct employment is a great idea. It’s easy for conservatives to convince the masses that government spending is bad for the economy when it’s more abstract. It’s a different story if you can tell unemployed people, “here’s a job, we want to hire you to do something productive but republicans won’t let us”. It would let ordinary people weigh the value of a real paycheck against the confidence fairy or the future tax treatment of job creators

  2. D. C. Sessions says:

    We–the DC crowd–talked about jobs for half-a-New-York minute. But we quickly shifted back to debt downgrades, baselines (again with the *&%!! baselines!), and tax revenues.

    That’s hardly surprising. How many of “the DC crowd” are out of work? How many even know someone out of work?

    By comparison, how many pay taxes? If you’re going to get wound up over abstract statistics, debt in the trillions certainly has a lot more dramatic and emotional impact than an abstract statistic like unemployment or “jobs per capita.”

  3. Anthony Miller says:

    Either people want to bash the President or talk about who is at fault instead of talking about real solutions.

  4. Geoff Freedman says:

    My wife read about a plan for people underwater in their mortgages, sponsered by smaller firms that own the mortgage.

    The plan involves writing down the mortgage to market value and refinancing for 30 years. When the house is sold, the mortgage company recieves 25% of the net profits. It sounded like a win win to me, but I haven’t heard what caveats are attached to the process.

    So if someone bought a house in 2007 for $500,000 and had a mortgage of $450,000, and the house was now valued at $350,000, the mortgage company would refinance at $350,000 fixed for 30 years. If the house were sold in 10 years for $450,000, the mortgage company would receive $25,000 (out of $100,000) from the proceeds of the sale, as well as getting the mortgage paid off.

    Didn’t come from Bankamerica or Wells Fargo, by the way.

  5. AlanDownunder says:

    When the GFC hit in late 2008, Australia immediately did a FAST (as well as a free home insulation scheme and a $900 per adult helicopter drop). Guess what: no recession, let alone chance of double dip, and 5% unemployment rate maintained.

    That plutocracy-perfecting anti-Keynsian death ray must be geostationary somewhere above the north pole.

  6. Bruce S says:

    Here’s an idea – linked to the concept of the “Rebuild the Dream” coalition – for some grass-roots initiative to tackle the negative space most “progressives” find themselves in.

    We need to challenge the Tea Party at the local level, but not just with “protest” or rhetoric. I’m suggesting that infrastructure, as an issue, has the potential for mobilizing a broad-based coalition and can make some of the issues around “cuts” vs. “spending” concrete at the local level.

    Would love to hear other folks thoughts…

  7. ljm says:

    I’m reading that the second night of rioting in Britain are a due to disdain for law enforcement and reaction to the austerity measures. This is the backlash when people realize their tax money is being used to pay interest to creditors and not for services for them. When are people in the USA going to figure out their tax payments are being used to pay creditors and not for services for them, while oil companies get subsidies and the rich who gained trillions of dollars during the Bush tax cut years are still finding ways to not pay their fair share. I’m waiting for the backlash to explode in the USA. I’ve been expecting it since 2003, before we had the added debt for the two big Bush wars added to the tax cuts for the rich. In the 2004 election I was posting all over cyberspace like a virtual “Banksey,” the jig is up. Now that everybody knows the jig is up, there’s still no plan to deal with it.

  8. T. K. says:

    It might also be pointed out this would involve the construction sector which was very badly hit with the popping of the housing bubble. Depending on the level of expertise needed retraining of other unemployed might be accomplished easily also. Perhaps giving some preference to this who have used up unemployment benefits or those nearing that point.

    Good paying jobs instead of unemployment. Who could be against that?

  9. bill says:

    This is a great idea. It’s immediately visible to voters, it’s very concrete and, as you say, it’s easily scaled up or down.

    Is anyone in Congress sponsoring this at the moment? What should an interested citizen do to help make this a reality?