Archive for September, 2009
by Caren Z. Turner
We are closing in on one year of the Obama Presidency and we have to ask– “What has changed for the better?”
To our view, each of the very many issues the Administration has attempted to tackle has been done right by half. There is still a great deal of work, including in some cases, a dramatic change in direction that must be accomplished if the success we all long for is to be achieved.
We strongly urge Congress and the Administration to go back basics. That is to say – Fix the Basics– create jobs and stop foreclosures. Let’s first make sure we put people back to work and keep them in their homes, before proceeding forward with lofty, visionary changes.
I liken the current situation America finds itself in to the White House’s laudable and much ballyhooed plan for an organic garden. Fresh vegetables and fruit grown on the South Lawn of the White House to be consumed by the First Family and their guests, what could be better?
Turns out the Administration’s organic dreams were foiled by toxic soil. It seems a previous team of White House gardeners used sewage sludge, full of lead, heavy metals and other pollutants, to fertilize the lawn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The toxic soil means that the White House garden and the produce it yields can never be considered organic.
The White House’s organic garden is symbolic of where the Administration is as a whole.
Any organic farmer, indeed, any weekend gardener knows that it all starts with the dirt. Whether adding lime, eliminating clay, etc.– nothing worthwhile can be grown without first securing the basics: the quality and stability of the soil under your feet.
Likewise, in our American society, visionary changes–including the “greening” of America and several aspects of healthcare reform– while commendable, cannot be accomplished successfully if the very ground under the feet of the American public is not secured.
We urge the Administration to recognize that the ground on which the American public stands is NOT stable and is NOT secure. Our homes are threatened. Our jobs are threatened. Sadly, for millions both have already been lost.
If this Administration is to succeed, we strongly recommend that it reevaluate its modus operandi, and do so quickly.
Congress and the Administration must wake up and act. They must triage the troubles that impact the very foundation of the nation.
While admittedly broken, health care is NOT the priority. The foreclosure and employment crises must take precedent over the reform of health care.
Granted, the Administration has taken a number of steps to slow the pace of foreclosures. In March the President announced his $75 billion housing recovery plan aimed at helping as many of 9 million Americans stay in their homes by restructuring their home loans.
However, just 9 percent of eligible homeowners, who are delinquent have gotten a mortgage modification under the federal program.
And yes, the goal of creating 5 million new “green” jobs set by the Administration is admirable, but at present 26 million Americans can’t find full-time work.
We have to do better and we have to do better NOW.
We recommend the Congress and the Administration review each of the programs they have commenced and continue working at them until they are successfully completed. Do it right or don’t do it at all.
Isn’t nice that the banks were given $787 billion to keep them afloat, but what did the American public get? We still cannot refinance our homes, or get a small business loan, even though federal money was earmarked for those specific purposes.
Case in point – the $255 million America’s Recovery Capital (ARC) loan program created by Congress as part of the stimulus package. The bill requires the SBA to help small businesses get through the recession by providing zero-interest, no-fee loans of up to $35,000. What’s more, the loans are 100 percent federally guaranteed so the banks making loans have no risk.
The problem is that many of the same banks bailed out by American taxpayers aren’t participating in the program and others are doing so half-heartedly. Fewer that 2,000 loans have been made so far. Bankers in some large states are dragging their feet: California has approved only 37 loans; New York, 33; and, Florida, 65. During that same time span 285 loans were issued in Minnesota and another 220 in Wisconsin.
Because the Administration never required the banks to lend the bailout money the banks simply took the $700 billion and hoarded it. The result: foreclosures continue to rise; small businesses are going under; and joblessness is increasing unabated.
While some look at the stock market’s improvement as the barometer of a recovering economy, the up tick on Wall Street isn’t being felt on Main Street.
Most Americans are still hurting.
As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap.
Losing jobs and homes is creating a toxic soil that threatens the future of our society. Until unemployment and the foreclosure crisis is thoroughly addressed and fixed, nothing will truly flourish.
Just like the contaminated White House garden–a society without roots firmly planted in the secure, healthy soil of full employment and home ownership, can never hope to support the flowering of visionary aspirations and lofty goals.
For so long as most Americans are standing on economic shaky ground and facing the danger of losing the very soil beneath our factories, our offices, and our homes, we will not have the capacity to fix our other pressing problems, even with the best of intentions.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Greg Nickels, Mayor of Seattle, Washington recently lost his bid for a third term in office, trailing two political newcomers in the primary vote. Mr. Nickels, a Democrat and president of the United Conference of Mayors, has won national acclaim for his advocacy on environmental issues and has been publicly praised for his efforts by President Obama.
The lesson? All politics are local. While Mr. Nickels rose to national prominence his popularity at home suffered. Job losses and financial trouble at Microsoft, Starbucks & Boeing, some of Seattle’s biggest employers, have left his constituents anxious. Mr. Nickels is criticized for not paying enough attention to local economic issues and other local issues including, a poor response to a record snowstorm in December which left many residents stranded on unplowed streets and a $4.2 billion transit project he approved which Seattle residents had rejected.
Our advice? In this climate of economic unrest it’s important for politicians, all the way up the line, to “mind the basics.” National platforms are great but it’s your constituents who give you that platform and who can take it away.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
On August 26th we celebrated “Women’s Equality Day.” Designated in 1977 by President Carter, the day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. The amendment was the culmination of a seventy year struggle that began in 1848 at the world’s first women’s right convention in Seneca Falls, New York.
While we reflect on our accomplishments, Women’s Equality Day is also a means to call attention to the continuing efforts towards women’s full equality, economically, socially and politically. In the boardroom, government and sciences, women are still underrepresented.
In the House of Representatives only 17% of the members are women. Coincidentally in academia, and upper management of corporations the number seems to be stuck at 17% as well. Let’s promote awareness and work together to strive for at least 20% by the end of 2010.
The Equity in Contracting for Women Act mandates that 5 percent of all federal government goods and services contracts be awarded to women owned businesses. In reality, women owned businesses receive only 3.4 percent of such contracts. The difference of 1.6 percentage points adds up to approximately $5 billion a year and with the addition of the federal economic stimulus spending the difference can easily reach $8 billion by 2010.
We call on the Obama administration and Congress to honor the diverse talent of the American workforce by ensuring that women-owned firms be awarded the 5 percent of contracts they are entitled to under the law.