… J-O-B-S!

Listen once again to Bob Herbert: “Imagine that you’ve got the gas pedal to the floor (or almost to the floor) as you try to get your vehicle to the top of the mountain, where the road will level off. You’ve made real progress, but the vehicle is straining and wheezing. You’re not there yet.

“Why in the world would you lift your foot off the gas and risk rolling back down the mountain?

“Something like this is happening in the fight to haul the United States out of the depths of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The deficit hawks – policy makers from the very same crowd whose crazy theories and rampant irresponsibility got us into this terrible fix in the first place – want the United States to step off of the stimulus gas, a move that might very well stall the current, extremely fragile recovery.

“The latest struggle on this front has to do with the crucially important issue of relief to state and local governments, which are facing nightmarish budget scenarios. Consider the following comment from General Davie Jr., the chief of the Natomas Unified School District in Sacramento County, Calif.:

“‘We made the decision to close our eight elementary school libraries with a heavy heart, but our budget situation is so dire that we had no choice. We’ve also cut all of our health aides, eliminated busing, shortened our school year by five days, increased K-3 classes to 30 to 1, and issued layoff notices to about 30 percent of our teachers, classified staff and administration.’

“Similar decisions, potentially devastating to the lives of individuals and families and poisonous to the effort to rebuild the economy, are being made by state and local officials from one coast to the other. State and local governments are obliged by law in nearly all case to balance their budgets, but their revenues have fallen off a cliff because of the long economic downturn. Thus, they are slashing away at important government services, laying off workers and raising fees and taxes.

“For the federal government to stand by like a disinterested onlooker as this carnage plays out would be crazy. President Obama has called on Congress to provide substantial relief to these localities to ward off the harmful impact of the budget cuts. In a letter to Congressional leaders of both parties, he said he was concerned that ‘the lingering economic damage’ of the financial downturn ‘has left a mounting employment crisis at the state and local level that could set back the pace of our economic recovery.’

“He urged quick action to prevent the budget cuts from leading to ‘massive layoffs’ of teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees. Congress had already been considering legislation that would provide something approaching $ 50 billion in aid to states: $ 24 billion to offset increased costs in the states’ share of Medicaid payments and $ 23 billion for teachers’ salaries. But the constant chatter from Republicans and increasing numbers of Democrats about raising federal budget deficits has stymied those efforts.

“The concerns about the effect that this aid might have on long-term federal deficits are misplaced, because the effect would be barely noticeable – if at all. But if Congress doesn’t act, the impact in the here and now will be both powerful and painful. The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has warned that the nation could face an ‘education catastrophe’ if the federal government fails to provide assistance to prevent the loss of 100,000 to 300,000 public school jobs.

“Nicholas Johnson, the director of the State Fiscal Project at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told me in an interview on Monday: ‘We’ve already seen in the first quarter of this year that state budgets actions lopped half a percentage point off of G.D.P. growth, knocking it from 3.5 percent down to 3 percent. To put it in terms of jobs, the actions of state and local governments right now are taking a little over 20,000 jobs out of the economy each month. That’s what it was in May, and there is every reason to believe it will continue unless the states get some assistance..’

“When you put people out of work, you cripple the quality of life of their entire families. When you start dismantling the public schools and driving teachers from the classrooms, you damage – and in many cases cripple – the lifetime prospects of untold numbers of pupils. When you undermine a recovery as fragile as a crate of eggs, you undermine the economic health of the entire nation.

“These are the kinds of disasters that the deficit hawks, secure in their ideological dream world, are quite happily prepared to live with.” –

Catherine Austin Fitts, the former Assistant Secretary of HUD, has stated that what’s happening to our economy is “a criminally leveraged buyout”.

Also headed for the Congressional deep freeze are the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Energy, and Justice, which will receive, altogether, $ 250 billion in federal funding in 2010. The military, the wars and the Department of Homeland Security, however, will get $ 700 billion, almost triple that. This is also more than the ‘defense’ budget of the rest of the world combined. But there’s no talk of reduction here.

While more and more Americans are signing up for food stamps, the Air Force’s C-17 cargo planes, at $ 330 million each, with a total program cost of $ 65 billion, got $ 2.5 billion from Congress in 2010 for ten of these planes that the Pentagon didn’t even ask for! That $ 2.5 billion, in 2010, could provide health care for 141,681 people, pay 6,138 public safety officers, 4,649 music and art teachers, and 4,568 elementary school teachers. There still would be enough left for 22,610 college scholarships, 46,130 Pell Grants, 1,877 affordable housing unite, renewable electricity for 382,679 homes and 29,630 free head Start programs – all for the cost of ten unasked for C-17s.

Exempt also are the bank bailouts and interest on the national debt – $ 125 billion in 2010. And trillions over the next ten years will keep going to the same financial corporations that got trillions of our dollars in government guarantees and loans. The unemployed don’t feel too good about that.

Obama campaigned loudly for job creation, but eighteen months after his inauguration we’re still waiting for the bleeding to stop. Those people in Detroit, though – who see no signs of a “recovery” – do you suppose they’ll sit on their hands for another eighteen months?