Many analysts say the United States is already in a recession. Whatever it’s called, economic crisis is a grim and grinding daily reality for the millions who are jobless, underemployed, struggling with soaring health care costs, losing their homes to foreclosure or already homeless.
Adding to the woe, the Bush administration’s proposed budget continues a pattern that has marked most federal budgets for the last quarter century of right-wing political dominance: the destruction of programs for health, housing, education and other people’s needs. At the same time, Bush’s 2009 budget would give the military $515 billion this year alone, not counting the additional $172 billion the administration is currently demanding for an Iraq war that has already cost over $2 trillion.
Though of course we can always use some extra cash, a stimulus package giving millions of Americans several hundred dollars each is not enough to help anyone really dig out from personal economic crisis.
But ordinary Americans do have ideas about what to do. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released late last week found nearly half the respondents saying that ending the Iraq war would help “a great deal” to end the crisis, and another 20 percent saying it would help at least some. Forty-three percent also called for increased government spending on human needs.
The AFL-CIO has come out with its own economic stimulus proposal for extended unemployment benefits, increased food stamp benefits, a tax rebate for middle and lower income families, fiscal relief for states, and school and infrastructure construction projects.
It’s long been known that shifting production from military to civilian goods greatly increases available jobs. In a new twist on this basic theme, the Apollo Alliance of labor, business and environmentalists points out that 3.3 million new well-paying jobs can be added by investing $30 billion a year for 10 years in federal funds for renewable energy, mass transit, “green” construction and other environmentally sound projects.
That’s a small fraction of the funds spent on the Iraq war. And, it could take a healthy bite out of global warming.