“I came from nothing and now I have a job that is a future for me. Not just a job, an actual career.”
Previously on this blog, I quoted these words of Rhea Mayolo, a Maryland mother of three who left public assistance for a job as a construction inspector on a highway project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
I quote them whenever I'm talking about putting Americans back to work because they get right to the value of the Obama Administration's infrastructure stimulus.
Yes, as critics are fond of pointing out, it's just 50 jobs for a railroad project in Coshocton County, Ohio, and 85 for a highway project in Brevard County, Florida. But as Washington State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen and State Rep. Judy Clibborn point out:
"Imagine all the projects funded by the stimulus spending and all the people who are working on them, and then eliminate them. That's how many more people would be out of work, how much money wouldn't be spent in our communities, and how much more we'd be paying out in unemployment payments for the unfortunate people who lost their jobs."
They are absolutely right.
For critics to conclude that the employment effect of the stimulus is weak because the unemployment rate has not declined requires ignoring how that rate would have jumped without the stimulus. It requires putting your head in the sand and pretending that the economy this Administration inherited magically ceased to be a factor at noon on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.
So, yes, let's hear their argument for taking away that road-building payroll, for closing down that rail car assembly line. Let's hear their argument for putting over 17,000 Ohioans on the street. Let's hear their argument for telling the Rhode Island DOT they can't complete the extra eight bridge and highway projects they were able to stretch their stimulus dollars to cover.
Let's hear them knock on the doors of those good people's homes and tell newly rehired workers that because the Obama Administration hasn't fixed everything yet, they would dismantle all the good that we have achieved this past year.
No, they can't do that because the reality is simple:
At the end of the Administration’s first year, the Recovery Act has emerged as one of the most effective tools we have in this recession to create good-paying jobs today, while laying the foundation for a more vibrant economy tomorrow.
The stimulus program is responsible for saving or creating upwards of 2 million jobs nationwide last year with even more on the way. And not for throwaway projects, but for important transportation and infrastructure improvements that cash-strapped states otherwise could not afford to make.
11,000 projects to rebuild and repair roads, tunnels, bridges, airports and other critical infrastructure in cities and towns across the country. And every one of these projects creating the kinds of jobs people can depend on--jobs that simply would not exist but for the Recovery Act.
Look, there's no question that, as we begin Year Two, our economy is still fragile. But that economy stands to gain even more as the Recovery Act continues to build steam.
In 2010, more stimulus-funded jobs will come on line than last year, as many of the projects begun in 2009 continue--and as larger, more complex infrastructure projects ramp up.
So, whatver kind of counting you're doing, don't count the stimulus out.