The LuLac Edition #757, Mar. 16th, 2009
PHOTO INDEX: CHAMBER PROGRAM.
The Economic Stimulus Package and Its Impact on Business and Community was the title of the breakfast program sponsored by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce on March 16. Featured speakers were Senators Arlen Specter and Robert P. Casey, Jr. and Congressmen Paul E. Kanjorski and Chris Carney. About 200 people packed the ballroom at The Woodlands to hear firsthand from men who have firsthand knowledge of the so-called “bailouts” of the financial industry and the crisis that precipitated them. That crisis spurred them to non partisan support of actions they say was necessary if the U. S. is to recover.
Congressman Kanjorski told the crowd that like it or not, something had to be done to stave off financial disaster. He claimed the situation was so dire that the September Bush Rescue plan pulled us back from the brink of the abyss. Although he said he knew the political consequences of supporting the so-called bail outs could be fatal if the economy doesn’t turn around before the 2010 Congressional elections, Congressman Kanjorski said he would rather roll the dice and lose his seat than do nothing and watch the American and world economies melt down.
Senator Specter agreed with that assessment saying that although the rescues or stimulus plans were wildly controversial, the risk of doing nothing at all was not an option. He cited the intertwining of the various financial institutions in nearly every aspect of the American economy and the world economy. After the first Bush bailout in the fall, money was spent buying up toxic assets and shoring up banks, but there was no visible effect on the economy. Senator Specter voted against releasing the second half of the $780 billion dollars provided for in that initial rescue plan.
Congressman Carney described the night before the latest stimulus vote when he and his staff pulled an all-nighter reading the plan. Congress had passed a resolution stating that members would have 48 hours to review the bill before a vote was called. In fact, they had 14 hours. Carney pointed out that unlike the recessions of 1983 and 2001 in which there were gradual, sure signs of an upswing, the 2008-09 recession seemed to be in a downward spiral. The circumstances indicated that drastic measures were needed and so he decided to vote for the stimulus package. He pointed out that the package includes the largest tax cut in American history.
Senator Casey outlined some of the benefits the stimulus package will bring to Pennsylvania. These included $80 million for law enforcement, $223 million for clean and drinkable water and $1 billion for roads and bridges. It also includes $754 million for food stamps and $200 million for unemployment benefits statewide. All these items will stimulate spending, Casey said, especially the last two. He said it is imperative to get the economy out of the ditch and back on the road.
All four Representatives showed courage in voting for bills that were wildly unpopular with the electorate. They are in the position of having information not available to the general public about the nature of the crisis, and they used their judgment and experience when deciding how to vote. All claim to have the wellbeing of Pennsylvania at heart in all their votes.
In the question and answer section that followed their presentations, Senator Casey opined that this time Congress is serious about health care reform. He cited support among the business community for change in the way health care is provided as one important factor that may lead to a vote on a health care bill as early as this summer. Senator Specter offered his assessment of the card check bill, or the Employees Free Choice Act (EFCA). Specter claims that the NLRB(National Labor Relations Board) is highly politicized no matter which party is in power. It can take years for them to issue a ruling. Specter believes the EFCA will make it easier for employees to form a union.
When asked how we can justify bailing out AIG, Congressman Kanjorski recognized the anger of the populace at the bonuses that have been paid to AIG employees, but he reiterated that global economic disaster was the likely alternative. He offered the opinion that if the Federal Government had bailed out Lehman Brothers, between $300 and $500 billion dollars might have been eliminated from the two “rescue” packages.
Congressman Carney pointed out that, contrary to popular opinion, Congress does not get to direct any of the spending in the rescue packages. Directed spending is another phrase for “pork”.