Take the common sense approach

Published 8:39 am Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Normally, you and I receive our daily dose of bad news by turning on our television, plugging in an internet connection, or walking to the end of our driveways to pick up a newspaper. However, these times are different. Today it is delivered by a best friend who has lost his job and can’t sleep at night because he fears he will lose his home, or by one of our children graduating from college and quickly discovering there is no job market, or by someone with whom we work or attend church who has received the life transforming news of a major illness.

Last week, I received the news from my nephew that he had just watched his house burn to the ground. I stared in the face of a family I love, who was experiencing the realization that they had lost in a matter of moments every material item they had worked for, received as a gift or built for over a lifetime.

Across America today there are families just like this who worry that this economic crisis burning across the globe could overwhelm them with a similar fate. Individuals expecting to retire see those hopes dashed in a moment. People working multiple jobs to keep their families afloat lose their jobs in an instant. Young people with their entire lives before them recognize that their hopes and dreams may be lost because they either cannot afford to attend college or cannot find a job once they graduate.

That is why we need a bold plan of action. It has to be innovative, but most of all it has to be an effective solution — not just effective rhetoric. In this effort, Americans have been far ahead of their politicians. They realize that a bold plan is not measured by its costs, but rather by the strength and wisdom of its ideas. They also know it is not measured by what the editorial writers or TV pundits say. And they know it is not measured by its complexity. Instead it is measured by a single criterion — does it work?

In order to work, it must have accountability and transparency, and it must pass the simple commonsense test.

The simple questions we can all ask are these:

1. Have you received your check from any of the bailouts yet? I can assure you many of the CEOs on Wall Street have.

2. Are you able to borrow more easily today than you were six months ago before all of these bailouts began?

3. Are you less worried about your future now than you were before the bailouts began?

4. If the government asked you if you would feel better about your economic situation by keeping $6,700 for your family, or sending it to the government and asking them to spend it however they would like, which one would make you feel better?

I am one of only 16 out of 435 members of the House of Representatives who has voted against every single bailout and stimulus package in the last two years. I did so because the packages lacked those critical principles of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness. Unfortunately, even many of the original proponents of the programs admit that they have not worked and that they will not work. However, it is our grandchildren who will be paying for many of them, years after we are gone.

Last week we voted on the biggest stimulus package yet. It is the most expensive single piece of legislation Congress has considered, and the total cost of this one piece of legislation is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government in 2007. I voted against the $819 billion stimulus package because it, like all of the others, failed to meet those three principles of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness. Here are some things you should know about the stimulus bill that came before Congress this week that your children and grandchildren will be paying for.

It spends an average of $222,972 for every job it creates, with the average salary for those jobs in Virginia being just over $35,000.

The legislation contained 152 separate spending lines. Only 34 of those spending lines went directly towards saving jobs for Americans, like highway construction projects. 117 had no job saving estimate associated with them at all, like $1 billion for the 2010 census or $800 million in funding for Amtrak.

To impact our current recession, any spending must happen fast. However, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said only $26 billion of the spending approved in the package is capable of being spent in fiscal year 2009, hardly providing the amount economists say is necessary to have a meaningful impact on our economy.

The total cost of this package for each family in Virginia’s Fourth District is nearly $6,700.

I will continue to work for the opportunity to develop a bipartisan solution for the families we all love, but this is not the time to shoot aimlessly in the air and hope we hit our target. America is too great for that — our destiny too important. We must succeed, for the price of our failure is far too great.