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Obama Tells America: We Don't Have to Choose Between Jobs and Safeguards

Frances Beinecke

Posted September 8, 2011

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Tonight President Obama laid out a comprehensive plan for getting more Americans back on the job.  Unlike Republican leaders in Congress, the president did not try to use the economic crisis as an excuse to destroy bedrock environmental safeguards or to continue to subsidize big oil companies.

Instead, he recognizes that we can put Americans back to work and protect our health at the same time. The president said:

I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety.  I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury… We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.  America should be in a race to the top.  

The president also highlighted two potent opportunities for creating jobs: smart infrastructure and clean technologies like fuel-efficient cars. By investing in these building blocks of 21st century competitiveness and growth, we can put Americans to work today and create a more prosperous future.

Obama is wise to single out innovation as an effective job creator.  Neither renewable power nor advanced vehicles were widely available 10 years ago. Now, thanks to technological leaps, the clean energy industry grew nearly twice as fast as the overall economy between 2003 and 2010. Now almost 90,000 Americans make their living building wind turbines, and more than 150,000 Americans have jobs assembling clean cars such as hybrids.

Green jobs were woven throughout the president’s plan. The men and women who will build the public transit systems that Obama called for—things like bus rapid transit routes, hybrid buses, and fast trains—will be performing work that benefits the environment and the economy at the same time.

I find it encouraging that President Obama presented a real jobs plan. The GOP leadership has offered nothing but a pollution plan: The so-called jobs memo released by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week centered on a list of environmental safeguards the party wants to abolish. That agenda will create dirtier skies, but it won’t put Americans back to work.   

President Obama in contrast has called for state-of-the-art infrastructure that will actually employ people. The White House understands that some projects create more jobs than others. Data from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act confirms that investing in public transportation produced twice as many jobs as investing in highways and roads.

Several of proposals Obama mentioned tonight will be especially effective at unleashing private investment, which is what leads to job growth. The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, for instance, already has a track record of leveraging limited public funding to draw private dollars off the sidelines and back into the economy—yielding 10 or more times as much investment per taxpayer dollar.

Expanding that program and launching a similarly effective National Infrastructure Bank will attract even more private investment. And if federal grants include performance-based standards for things like reducing oil use, saving commuters money, and cleaning up the air, then these projects—and the jobs they create—will generate long-lasting benefits for the nation.

Tonight the president called on us to imagine if previous generations had failed to invest in the railroads and highways that connected our nation or the research institutions that gave us the Internet and other technological breakthroughs.

Making America stronger and more competitive should not be a partisan issue: it is shared effort of Republicans and Democrats alike. Our leaders must put aside their political battles in the interest of putting Americans to work.

By promoting clean energy innovation and by modernizing our nation’s infrastructure, we can put Americans to work now and create prosperity for years to come.



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Thomas DeanSep 9 2011 10:57 AM

Like you, I was encouraged by President Obama's speech last night. Encouragement is in short supply.

Kanwar Naresh SodhiSep 9 2011 11:34 AM

It would be better if you employ your own countrymen rather than importing cheap labour from the third world countries, who can even be a threat to the security of your country.These people are depriving U.S. nationals of the jobs which should rightly go to them by willingly working at low wages. The employers in the U.S. are cheating their countrymen.

Richard HendricksSep 16 2011 12:55 PM

Those far-right Republicans and those Big Polluters are looking for another miserable excuse, but this time we will not fall for this scapecoating campaign. The latest attacks on our environmental safeguards even reminds how those old boy networks and white supremacists used to blame people of color for high crime rates and a fall in values. Those big polluters and their supporters on Capitol Hill are using the same finger pointing excuse to blame our best life-saving environmental safeguards for the current recession. You think we would be stupid enough to fall for this latest scapegoating tactics from the far-tight Republicans and the big polluters? We say :"Certainly Not!" They have used scapegoating in the past, and this time we Americans will not fall for their latest finger pointing campaign aimed at the wonderful environmental progress and our established clean energy future. As a result, America's disapproval rating on The Republicans shot up to 68%, just compared to 32% for President Obama,
because we know that they are solely responsible for most of the economic troubles and they way they disrupted President Obama's aim at getting the economy running again, and now most
of the economic mess is the Republicans' fault. What those corpoate devils and there political supporters needs to do right now is keep their oppressive mouth shut and mind their own god-forsaken business. However,
their have been economic surverys that clean energy can generate millions of jobs and billions of dollars. It's true, the economic and government studies on green jobs are absolutely correct, so not only that they will give us a booming economy, but it will give us everlasting prosparity and help lower the doomsday tempratures of global warming, which will be a great help for the planet. In contrast, 48% of Republicans strongly support clean energy and environmental restoration. Now let us give President Obama the legal power to pass The American Jobs Act and make clean energy the official asset for America's energy industry. America has spoken! The full majority of all Americans are demanding clean energy and a smart, healthy economic recovery. And this time we are not going to wait for a month or two, now let's have some real highly-structured economic and environmental action that will give us the long-awaited enocomic-environmental relief that we can all look forward to. We don't want to hear anymore monkey business from those far-right Republicans and the big polluters ever again, so let's get our economy moving again and make sure they never give America's environmental progress anymore trouble. Give The Hell Obama!

Gian-AngeloSep 16 2011 06:05 PM

Does it concern anyone else besides me that President Obama wants to eliminate the deduction for charitable donations for those making over $200,000 in order to pay for his 'Jobs Program.' I would much rather give my money to excellent environmental organizations like the NRDC, than dysfunctional organizations like the United States Government.

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