Little more than a year ago, President Obama took office facing the worst economic crisis in generations. 2008 saw the largest job losses since the end of World War II and the worst housing market since the Great Depression. Faced with that tremendous challenge, President Obama and the Democratic Congress responded with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), an aggressive plan to jumpstart our economy and create jobs.
As we consider the “state of the recovery”(SOTR) one year out, Washington’s success in averting catastrophe is clear. We’re not out of the woods yet and much more work remains to create good jobs and lower unemployment, but there are positive signs that the recession is over and that the economic policies pursued by Democrats are starting to work.
Northern Virginia has fared the economic storm better than most. The region has been awarded $520 million in ARRA funding and our unemployment rate continues to hover around 5 percent. However, the national unemployment rate remains unacceptably high. Even with the recent dip to 9.7 percent from a high of over 10 percent much more needs to be done.
To combat this weak economy, House Democrats have made legislative strides to create jobs and spur economic growth. Most recently, we passed the “Jobs for Main Street Act,” which makes targeted investments in areas that will grow our economy over the long term, including highways, public transit, construction, small businesses, job training and hiring and retraining teachers, police officers, firefighters. We enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has created and saved more than 1.5 million jobs, with about half the funds still to be spent into the economy. We also extended unemployment insurance benefits to provide immediate relief to workers hit hardest by the recession and we approved lending and new tax breaks for small businesses-the engines of job growth in America.
The jobs created or saved include over 135,000 education positions and 5,000 law enforcement officers nationwide. Critical stimulus funds will fill gaping holes in Virginia’s transportation budget. Take Arlington’s Courthouse Road Interchange project for example. Arlington recently saw $10.3 million for the project eliminated by the state, funds that the stimulus will go towards filling. The project is slated to be shovel-ready this fall and will put Virginians to work. It will also provide a long-term transportation solution enhancing the safety and reducing traffic congestion at this dangerous interchange.
Overall, there are signs that our economy as a whole is improving from its 2008 low point. Since President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law, the Dow Jones index is up significantly, which is good news for many Americans whose pensions are directly tied to the stock market.
This kind of news is not much comfort to families who aren’t feeling the effects of a strengthened economy. All the hopeful statistics in the world make little difference to a family facing unemployment and struggling to make ends meet. Because employers wait to be assured that the economy has fully recovered before expanding their payrolls again, jobs will unfortunately be the last part of the rebound to come into place.
We’ve come a long way since last winter, when the economic outlook was at its dimmest. But with millions Americans still jobless and uncertain about their future, we’ve got a lot of work left to do and remain committed to putting our noses to the grindstone for the American people.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.