It has been more than a month since President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That is the official name of the federal plan to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help boost our sagging economy.
During our visit to Washington last week, NewsChannel 3 spoke with our three representatives in Congress about the stimulus plan. In part two of our special report from the nation’s capital, they share what they think about it and how to make sure the money makes a positive impact for you.
“I don’t want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems, nor does it constitute all of what we’re going to have to do to turn our economy around. But today does mark the beginning of the end.” With that, President Barack Obama signed into law the bill he hopes will re-energize America’s stumbling economy.
It came after a hard-fought battle in Congress, where only three republicans voted for it. North Carolina Senator, Richard Burr, was not among them. “The truth is that the stimulus package wasn’t targeted to stimulate the economy,” he said.
Burr added that he is concerned with the plan’s $787 billion price tag, which he said will actually cost trillions in interest over the next several years. It is a reason he also voted no last week on the federal budget, and its more than eight-thousand earmarks. “I believe it is okay for members of the House and Senate to have projects that people at home feel raise to the level of a priority, but not with borrowed money,” Burr said.
Across the aisle in the Senate, Democrat Kay Hagan voted for the stimulus and the new budget. “We have got to be moving forward. Granted, it wasn’t a perfect bill, but I’m not going to sit here idly by while millions of people in this country, and in North Carolina, are having their homes foreclosed upon; they’re losing their jobs,” she said. “People are desperate. They want to see their government work for them.”
In the House, Representative Mike McIntyre thought government was not working for the people when he voted against bailouts for banks and automakers. But he, too, supported the stimulus plan. “We’re at a point were we have got to do something, but make sure that money benefits the most people and that it’s invested now.”
While the stimulus money may come from the federal government, much of the responsibility for doling it out now belongs to the nation’s governors. And that’s why your representatives in Congress say much of the accountability for how it’s spent also lies closer to home.”
“It’s important that all of our local elected officials and local citizens stay in touch with the governor’s office to say, ‘these are the projects in our area’,” McIntyre said.
Kay Hagan added, “I think that people need to realize that they need to start putting forward the grants and stepping up to the plate and asking for that.”
Senator Burr agrees we are all part of the oversight process. While he wishes Congress had not given so much power to governors, we now must deal with the stimulus package we have. “I think it’s safe to say there’s not enough stimulus to make an impact in 100 counties in North Carolina, but I think it’s also our responsibility to make sure that as we go in the future, we’re doing things that leverage private dollars to begin to affect this turnaround.”
Burr also said there is a lesson from Japan’s so-called Lost Decade of the 1990s. He said the Japanese learned it’s not how much money you spend to get things back on track, rather where you spend it.
Congressman McIntyre, on the other hand, said action is better than inaction, as we try to keep from slipping from recession to depression.
In part three of this special report, we hear more from McIntyre, Burr and Hagan about the other priorities they are working on in Washington.
Part One – WWAY Goes to Washington: Who represents us in Congress
Part Two – WWAY Goes to Washington: NC representatives discuss the stimulus plan
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