GUEST EDITORIAL: A jobs plan that can work

The following editorial was published in the Aug. 27 edition of The Miami Herald:

As President Obama prepares to unveil a jobs package meant to revive a sluggish U.S. economy teetering on another recession, he must make the case to anxious Americans that this is not a re-election strategy but a true economic plan. A tough sell.

The housing market remains in shambles in and those construction jobs have not come back. Voters are losing confidence as the president’s job-approval rating illustrates.

Truth is there are bright spots in the tourism and retail sectors of the economy, but the gray clouds remain as inflation inches up along with gas prices.

On Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke proposed no new ways for the Fed to boost the economy, but he warned Congress, with a House controlled by tea party Republicans obsessed with deficit reduction at warp speed, that it must not “disregard the fragility of the current economic recovery.”

Some interesting job-creating ideas are being tossed around by White House officials to spark growth. Among them:

  • An initiative to renovate aging schools, making them energy efficient with new technologies, holds promise. These are not “make-do” jobs – they’re crucially needed improvements.
  • A national infrastructure bank to fix or expand roads and bridges and air and sea ports also merits support. Republicans who groused during Mr. Obama’s first two years that he was not putting more people to work with transportation projects should back such a plan. Or will partisan politics trump recovery?
  • Providing tax credits for businesses to hire new workers is another measure that should be welcomed by Main Street, though businesses won’t hire without more consumer demand. Yet with more people working and spending on goods and services, more tax revenue would start to fill government coffers, relieving state and local governments from ever-greater draconian actions to balance their own books.
  • Homeowners whose mortgages are under water also need help. The White House is considering an aggressive plan that would help homeowners with good credit to modify their mortgages at today’s market value with low interest rates instead of risking foreclosure.

Pushing Congress to finally approve free trade with Colombia and other nations also would create jobs here, too.

Mr. Obama has an opportunity to move beyond the partisanship – and seal the deal for recovery.

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