Authors: Van Jones
American families are being crushed under an avalanche of pink slips, overdue bills and eviction notices. For every hour that our government delays in taking effective action, we pay dearly.
President Barack Obama promised us he would begin fixing the U.S. economy immediately, while greening our future. True to his word, he is trying to deliver – through his proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The U.S. Senate should help our President succeed, not stand in his way.
The Senate’s recovery plan will invest close to $130 billion in green programs that directly create 1.6 million jobs. These investments promote energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart grid projects, public transit and “fix it first” transportation infrastructure. This infusion of capital will begin securing our economic, energy and environmental future.
The moment Congress acts and President Obama signs the bill, those dollars will begin flowing out – creating jobs, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing energy costs, and building a clean and green economy. We need every penny that President Obama and Congress have proposed for these investments – and we need them now.
Some skeptics are desperately trying to persuade the public that the green aspects of President Obama’s recovery plan are frivolous or just “pie-in-the-sky.” Nobody – and certainly no U.S. Senator – should fall for this kind of deception.
The truth is that President Obama’s proposals to put Americans to work greening our infrastructure offer the biggest bang for the buck in the recovery proposal.
And they are among the most practical, common sense ideas in Washington, DC, right now. Nothing could be more practical than employing ordinary people to fix our buildings, so that they waste less energy. Nothing could be more practical than saving our new energy companies, that have viable products and proven technologies, but who are struggling in the present slow down.
Nothing could be more practical than repairing our roads and creating public transit systems. All of these proposals create work that is good for the environment. But the outcomes are also good for people – and for the country.
Fully supported, the green aspects of the recovery plan will give job opportunities to people who need work. They will cut the energy bills of people who need price relief. And they will help people get to work on public transportation, even if they don’t have a car.
The Senate needs to fully support Obama’s green investment priorities – and expand on them. Any more lollygagging will prolong our pain. Any shrinking of the funds requested will only shrink the number of jobs ultimately created.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will also invest billions of dollars in our most valuable resource, the men and women that deserve to learn and earn in an inclusive green economy. As we begin to ride this green wave, we must ensure that it lifts all boats. With 11 million unemployed people in this country, we must invest in the education and training necessary for people who need green careers.
In this respect the Senate version of the recovery plan falls short of the House version. Consistent with President Obama’s recommendation, the House version provides $500 million for worker training and placement in energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs. Any final legislation should honor President Obama’s recommendation and include the House commitment to green-collar job training.
The recovery plan is designed to create jobs and also to prepare the skilled workforce that is fundamental to lifting our country out of the economic and environmental crises. While the economy is tanking and the environment is in crisis, Americans are ready for one solution to fix both these problems.
I have publicly called for an even bigger, bolder and greener recovery plan. But the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a solid first step in the right direction. It is vital that the Senate passes a robust version of this legislation immediately, with full bipartisan support.