U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is a road warrior. He came to Sacramento recently to drum up support for President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act.
As American agriculture is one of our economy’s few bright spots, Vilsack is a logical choice for this job. U.S. agricultural exports for 2011 are projected to be a record $137 billion. We’re also projecting a $42 billion trade surplus. Things are going well in the agricultural sector. It’s the rest of the economy that sucks. Right now, unemployment is around 12 percent in our capital city. If government jobs continue to evaporate, the unemployment rate will go up even more.
So I was pretty interested in learning more about Obama’s American Jobs Act. As Vilsack explained at a late September press conference at the West Sacramento Port, the act builds on good ideas from both Republicans and Democrats. The act would put people back to work and encourage keeping people on the job. It includes $30 billion to keep up to 280,000 teachers employed, with an additional $5 billion for police and firefighters. The act would cut the payroll tax in half for almost all employers, provide tax relief for businesses who are hiring and increase funding for infrastructure projects.
The $447 billion act would be funded by increasing taxes on wealthy Americans, those individuals with incomes more than $200,000. These are the same Americans who received the majority of tax cuts during the Bush administration. In addition, there would be additional revenues from oil and gas companies, hedge funds, and owners of corporate jets.
That size stimulus would provide a huge boost for the economy and put many Americans back to work. Too bad it does not appear to have a chance in hell of getting through the Republican-controlled House. It seems that the Republicans would prefer to have the economy implode rather than work on programs that would put Americans back to work. Defeating Obama is priority No. 1. Priority No. 2? Even more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Meanwhile, U.S. corporations are sitting on around $2 trillion in cash. The Republican plan? Decrease the corporate-tax rate. What will that accomplish? Do they really believe that corporations are not spending money because of the corporate-tax rate? And, after asking Americans to make huge sacrifices to bail out our financial institutions, the Republican plan asks nothing of those who so handsomely profited from the disaster. Instead, the Republican agenda leads us toward more concentrated wealth, increased poverty rates and the disappearance of the middle class.
From my vantage point, here in Sacramento, the American Jobs Act makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, sense has been in short supply in Washington, D.C., lately.