Seems like the 787 billion dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus package Congress has passed and sent to the President’s desk is just good enough. Though notable for its size, it doesn’t advance bold initiatives that could define Obama’s presidency, nor does it grapple with big, confounding issues like universal health care. It’s incremental rather than transformational. But it’s good enough to mind-shift us into a more optimistic view of the short term economy and to offer real help to many hurt by the downturn.
(If you want a quick look at how we’re going to spend 787 billion, see this chart. That sounds like “real money“, but it’s amazing how quickly it goes when you break it down–well, incrementally. For a more detailed summary, the Center for Law and Social Policy provides descriptions and tables with estimated state-by-state impacts of key provisions. Read that full report here.)
Though many economists say the package isn’t big enough, and feminists wonder whether it does enough to build the human infrastructure, Republicans are predictably squealing it’s too big and too diffuse. This despite all the effort Obama went to to engage and appease his Republican colleagues. I thought by now he would have learned the hooker principle (get paid first) and not have expended so much political capital trying to win over those who want only to create campaign issues with which to wrest back Congressional seats in 2010 and take the White House away from him in 2012. (Remember Newt and the Contract on America in 1994?)
The headline and precis on the e-mail I received just now punches me in the face:
FY09 STATE BUDGET CUTS FORCE ASU TO CAP ENROLLMENT,
FRESHMAN APPLICATIONS CLOSE MARCH 1, FIVE MONTHS EARLY
Budget cuts scale Poly and West campuses down to one college each;
Four dozen academic programs to be closed
Additional state budget cuts in FY10 could result in closing two entire campuses
I’m in Arizona for a few weeks, teaching a short course in “Women, Power, and Politics” at Arizona State University. Though this is not a regular gig for me and I have joked that I’m earning almost enough after taxes to pay for our car rental while we are here, I feel intimately involved–actually sick at my stomach–over the short-sighted budget priorities of the right-wing dominated state legislature and the new Republican Governor Jan Brewer, who took over after the state’s popular Democratic Governor and chief resister of such retrograde policies, Janet Napolitano, flew the coop to Washington to become Secretary of Homeland Security.
These cuts come on top of the university announcing last week that they would furlough all staff, top to bottom, for two weeks. I have to show I’m working nine fewer hours than my original commitment, and my princessly salary will be cut accordingly. This is not going to change my lifestyle much. But I think of what it means to people dependent on the university for their fulltime compensation–those who still have jobs that is. More than 550 positions, including 200 faculty, have been eliminated. Further, the state’s whacking back of educational funding extends to K-12 public schools also–and Arizona was already near the bottom of the 50-state heap in education funding.
The best: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama. This photo says, better than a thousand words, the joy of this step forward for gender equality in compensation. That’s Lilly, the blonde in the middle (I won’t identify by her red jacket because it seems Senators Barbara Mikulski and Olympia Snowe and Rep.Eleanor Holmes Norton also got the memo).
Am I alone in noting the contrast between this photo, with its diverse group of people and the photo of old white men surrounding George Bush when he signed the abortion ban bill? Quite a sea change. Breathe out now. Guess which one of the signings I was invited to, and which one not.
But on to the not so best, for some happenings this past week were more like Washington as usual: