One year has passed since the Obama administration enacted the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the largest boon to public spending and the safety net since the New Deal. Last week, President Obama linked economic recovery to investments in clean energy and green job creation in his State of the Union address.
Despite two quarters of GDP growth and a declining unemployment rate, 20,000 jobs were lost last month. Without 33,000 temporary Census jobs, 53,000 jobs would have disappeared. Job loss has slowed since the 583,000 jobs per month lost on average between January and June, and ARRA has certainly played a role. But effects of that stimulus are fading. More needs to be done or the potential gains from a budding recovery will disappear and we will see continued job loss.
We put trillions of dollars on the line to rescue Wall Street from self inflicted wounds, yet at a time of historic unemployment rates, some are calling for shrinking the deficit on the backs of America's workers by refusing to take the bold steps needed to put people back to work.
As we mark the one-year ARRA anniversary, it’s time to look at strategies on the road to recovery.
ARRA investment can promote and fund an economic recovery that works for all of us. Or, stimulus investment can go to those who’ve always had more, reinforcing existing inequities, and leaving women, people of color, and low-income families further behind. Much of ARRA’s $819 billion funding is still to be spent, and we must ensure that the recovery helps those most in need.
On Valentine's Day, Linda Basch, President of the National Council for Research on Women, wrote an op-ed calling for greater gender equity:
This Valentine's Day, skip the chocolates and the teddy bears. Don't bother with expensive flowers or that revealing lingerie you've been eyeing. Quite frankly, many of us are just not in the mood. What women really want, in these volatile times, is greater economic opportunity and security.
President Obama is all set to deliver his first State of the Union address this evening at 9pm EST. The question on my mind is will he cover issues that matter most to women? This is a President who started his term by signing into law the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (although the Paycheck Fairness Act was subsequently sidelined and forgotten, leaving the job half-done).
As reports filter in from Haiti in the aftermath of Wednesday's catastrophic earthquake, it is difficult to process the sheer immensity of this tragedy. My thoughts go to the tens of thousands of grieving and displaced who are struggling with unimaginable loss. I am also thinking about the hundreds, maybe thousands of colleagues, advocates and humanitarian workers who have sacrificed their lives while trying to rebuild a nation ravaged by hurricane, poverty and continuing mismanagement. The UN mission in Port au Prince is still missing more than 100 staff members and countless schools, clinics and businesses have been destroyed.
I won't go into the long and turbulent history of Haiti's past: revolt against slavery, independence, colonialism, dictatorship, fragile democracy and the US's troubling role in this tested nation's myriad challenges.