Saturday, February 28, 2009

Time to build middle class jobs again.

In the wake of the economic troubles facing our country, certain politicians and pundits have been turning to an old standby of their rhetoric... They are blaming you - average, everyday people - for the state of the economy.  For example, I saw a television talk show recently on which George Will said that the reason for the current economic problems is that all Americans have been on a spending spree, buying more than they can afford.

But that kind of accusation is grossly unfair.  It is true that American consumer debt has been increasing, but the reason for that is far from Mr. Will's accusation.  The truth is that bad trade policies and other damaging federal policies have been slowly undermining the standard of living of the American middle class for decades, now.  And the result is clear:
Jared Bernstein, [President Barack Obama's task force on middle-class issues] executive director, said middle-class incomes have fallen by about $2,000 in real terms since the start of the decade. (MSNBC) 
Americans have been struggling to keep themselves in (or get themselves into) the middle class, with bad federal trade policies continually undermining their hard work.

This video on MSNBC shows both the problem (and possibilities for hope).  It talks about industrial jobs lost when federal trade policies allowed a corporation to move jobs to a lower-wage country.  This is a story we know very well in Connecticut, and especially in New Britain.

But this video also shows the industrial opportunities that exist to start manufacturing renewable energy products.  This is the kind of manufacturing that Connecticut's - and New Britain's - high tech industry and highly skilled workforce are well-prepared to start - or do a lot more of.  And good policies designed to get us there can help to alleviate the harm done by decades of poor economic decisions by the federal government - and help set us on a path to a prosperous future.

The Green Jobs legislation other legislators and I are working on right now can start accomplishing exactly this.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bi-Partisan deficit mitigation plan.

The House of Representatives is presently approving a plan to address the deficit in the current year's state budget.  It is a plan that closes $1.2 billion of deficit in the state budget.

With the budget problems we face in our state, there are a lot of things in this plan that I wish were not occurring.  On the other hand, this plan protects many things that would have been cut under the Governor's plans, like ConnPACE benefits for seniors and people with disabilities and important clean energy and conservation programs.  It also prevents cuts in education funding that were being considered.

And this plan is being approved with both Democratic and Republican support - a great achievement for Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and New Britain's own John Geragosian, Chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Finally bringing industrial employment back through green jobs.

We in Connecticut have a unique opportunity to both rebuild our high-employment, good-paying industry and make ourselves leaders in the worldwide movement for an environmentally-friendly economy.  This is a moment in history when there is clearly a need for and an opportunity for both, and we can show the leadership to get it done - right here.

The people in New Britain have known for decades now what the rest of the country is just realizing: you cannot have a successful economy with fewer good-paying industrial jobs.  People in New Britain could tell any Wall Street economist who had been advocating for damaging international trade policy that you are just asking for trouble if you try to offshore most of the high-employment industries.  At a certain point, there will not be enough people with the income to buy the things we are importing.

That reality came home to roost in a big way in the form of the disastrous economic crash of 2008.

The question is what we do now.  For certain, we have to rebuild our high-employment, good-paying industry.  But we cannot look back thirty years to re-create the kind of things we were manufacturing back then.  Technology has changed and you can only grow an economy by being ahead of the curve.

That is why the leadership of President Barack Obama has been so important.  Even before he was elected, he was talking about re-charging our industrial economy by manufacturing the things that will enable us to produce and conserve energy.  The math on this makes so much sense.  Presently, we send massive amounts of our income overseas to buy energy - mostly oil.  This is a huge drain on our economy.  So, the more energy we produce here at home - and the less we waste - the less of an economic drain energy becomes.

And that is just for starters.  If we save money on energy costs by investing money to produce the things that make renewable energy - like solar panels and windmills - we can create a large number of industrial jobs.  Plus, then there are many jobs created to do installation of things like solar panels and, of course, to do the weatherization that saves money by making homes and other buildings more energy efficient.

We have reached the point when these things are not science fiction, anymore.  They are now the wave of the future.  We can either act to be at the lead of the next big thing or later wish that we had.

That is why I introduced House Bill 6000, An Act Creating Green Jobs.  This legislation would...
...establish a program to create jobs and promote green energy and conservation by establishing (1) a comprehensive program for public investment in clean energy, conservation, public transit and transit-oriented development, (2) a comprehensive program to create the manufacturing capability in Connecticut, primarily in the central cities, to supply this clean energy, conservation, public transit and transit-oriented development, and (3) a plan for state investment in this manufacturing.
The idea would be to greatly expand the state's clean energy and conservation programs and use them to carry out a plan to upgrade all homes, and possibly businesses, with renewable energy - probably solar panels - and energy conservation.

The next step is the crucial one.  The solar panels (or whatever renewable energy is used) and the supplies to weatherize homes and businesses, as much as possible, would be purchased from manufacturers here in Connecticut.  The state would redirect some of its existing investment money to investments in the expansion and creation of this manufacturing and installation industry - retrofitting current factories, expanding small businesses and growing new ones.

Of course, I would want a large amount of this manufacturing to be located in and employing the people of New Britain.  And many people in New Britain can be employed in the installation and weatherization work that would need to be done.

It is a solid plan that would work.  And it would push Connecticut to the lead in both green manufacturing and renewable energy and conservation.

As tough as things are right now, it is now that we have the need and responsibility to chart a new path for our country, state and communities.  We now know that it was a big mistake to give up our high-employment, good paying manufacturing economy.  Fortunately, Connecticut, with our highly skilled workforce and high-technology infrastructure is well positioned to take the lead into the new era of high-employment, high wage industry.

If we take action to make it happen.

If you are reading this and you are not my constituent, you can help by asking your State Representatives and State Senators to co-sponsor and support HB6000, An Act Creating Green Jobs.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Rell budget freezes education and harms property tax relief.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell's budget freezes education funding for cities and towns and cuts PILOT property tax relief funding to New Britain by about $2 million.

A freeze in the Education Cost Sharing Grant funding is better than a cut, but I am deeply concerned that Gov. Rell's budget would result in higher property taxes and less local services - such as larger class sizes for kids in our local schools.

It is not a complete budget, either, leaving a state deficit of $2.7 billion over two years.  I do not know why it is that the Governor would submit a budget so far out of balance.

I will say that the Governor's job creation program, bringing back the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps is a good idea.  It is an idea that I have been talking about as a good way to help people in these tough times with what they want - jobs.

But the fact that it is so far out of balance and leaves many, many important needs unmet makes this budget proposal very problematic.  I had hoped for better and I am disappointed.