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Think long term benefits on next stimulus package

Published: 8/26/2020 2:35:36 PM

While watching political leaders and the White House play battle bots over the federal spending bill, we fail to see the tremendous opportunity this pandemic has provided.

After all, how bold is Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s $3 trillion plan when its key selling point is that it will help states balance their budgets? And what will the president’s pet obsession with payroll tax cuts mean next year when it has put Social Security that much closer to insolvency?

Lost in the debate is any discussion of what we want this investment to do for us in the long term. Is it enough to survive the pandemic if life on the other side is worse than it was before? Wouldn’t we be better off directing our efforts toward bolder, more innovative solutions that could stimulate higher wage jobs, a healthier environment and a better quality of life?

In contrast, consider how Roosevelt transformed the U.S. economy during World War II. Rather than write no-string IOUs to corporations, FDR used the full force of the government to realign American manufacturing and scientific research.

Doing so did not come cheap. Federal spending expanded from $1.6 billion in 1940 to $64.5 billion in 1945 — but that investment transformed cities from Detroit to Mobile and brought an end to a world war, stimulating the longest period of economic expansion in U.S. history.

Contrary to Republican mythology, Roosevelt’s war economy did not cripple capitalism or turn us into a nanny-state either. Instead, corporate profits and real wages soared in the 1940s and 1950s. In turn, the federal government taxed corporate profits and generalized the earned income tax so that we all contributed to the general welfare.

Imagine how generative those investments might have been had they gone toward peaceful purposes. It should not take a war to drive us to think and act boldly. Why not plan to rebuild our economy by investing in planet-healing infrastructure, new models of housing, a national power grid of renewable energy sources and a modernized health care system capable of meeting our preventative needs and the challenges of a global pandemic.

Dorrie Brooks


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