Americans are recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and I am confident we will succeed. However, we also must consider where we and our families will be, economically, when our nation’s economic recovery is complete.
Encouraging a morally acceptable answer to this critical issue is a paramount priority – for me, for President Obama and for my Democratic congressional colleagues.
At a time when state budgets are stressed, we understand that Washington must do everything it can to keep those who are teaching our children, caring for our health and protecting our homes on the job.
This, we realize, is a time for decisive action – not abstract, partisan debates about political philosophy.
That is why I voted last week to approve and send to President Obama for his signature into law the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act (H.R. 1586). This legislation will provide immediate funding to keep our nation’s teachers, police officers and firefighters on the job – as well as helping states like Maryland pay their doctors for Medicaid coverage.
In the House, we prevailed by a final vote of 247-161 with only two Republicans joining us in the majority. It was a sharp and crystal clear division that reflected the parties’ contrasting priorities.
For Democrats like me, the key consideration in enacting this absolutely necessary legislation is that it will save and create 319,000 jobs at a time when states such as Maryland, our local jurisdictions and school boards are facing layoffs.
The jobs we acted to save will have a direct and immediate impact upon the lives of our families.
According to documented estimates from the federal Department of Education, the $10 billion education funding we approved will keep 161,000 teachers on the job. According to experts, the additional federal funding for Medicaid, police and firefighting will save and create 158,000 jobs.
I should also note that more than half of these essential jobs will be in the private sector – including workers who contract supply services to state and local governments. ?It also is noteworthy that this critical federal funding is completely paid for. It adds nothing to our federal deficit. In fact the non-partisan and widely respected Congressional Budget Office has determined that this much-needed infusion of additional federal funds will actually reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years.
This is a “win-win” result.
We Democrats found a way to fund essential jobs without adding to our short (or longer) term federal deficit. The $26 billion federal commitment is more than balanced by “offsets,” including $9.8 billion in savings achieved by closing tax loopholes that previously encouraged corporations to ship American jobs overseas.
The Republicans may call this federal jobs funding a “bailout” if they wish. Doing so only highlights their impractical – and inhumane – sense of priorities.
From my perspective, this “bailout” is absolutely essential for Maryland’s working families. It strengthens essential services in the near term and lays the foundation for a stronger and more equitable recovery down the road.
Consider these facts:
Maryland will receive $175 million from the new federal legislation, allowing Gov. Martin O’Malley, our state legislature and our local school boards to fund 2,500 teaching positions – teachers who otherwise would have been laid off because funding to pay them was not there.
In addition, the legislation also includes $16.1 billion in essential Medicaid assistance for the states – including at least $280 million to provide necessary healthcare here in our state.
I, for one, will proudly accept the Republicans’ “bailout” charge.
We Americans are sailing through stormy economic seas, storms that endanger the foremost priorities in our lives. At times like these, we all have to stand and “bail” together – or risk sinking.
Since Americans first joined together to accomplish what we could not achieve individually, we have placed a basic moral duty upon government. Our elected representatives are charged with finding the best way to use public funds to assure the education of our children, the preservation of the public health and the protection of our communities.
Last week, a Democratic president, Senate and House once again did our duty. Once again, we stood up for America’s priorities.
Congressman Elijah E. Cummings represents Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.