The fear and anxiety in the voices of our friends, family and neighbors over the past several months are understandable and very real. The urgency to do something is a true call to action that we need to heed together, as a nation.
Families are losing jobs and homes, and many are losing hope. Continued partisan bickering in Congress does not create confidence.
Today, with the Senate about to vote on a nearly $800 billion economic "stimulus" package, I am reminded of that famous Hubert Humphrey quote: "Government will either do something to you, or for you, but government is going to do something."
Unfortunately, the something that government intends to do to us in the next week or so may do far more harm to our economy than good. Both legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the proposal before the Senate would spend breathtaking amounts of taxpayer money on too much, too broadly and too ineffectively to jump-start our economy. We do need government action, but that action needs to go hand in hand with the faith and trust of the American people.
The people need to be firmly behind this legislation; recent public opinion polls do not show that kind of support. We need to take a step back and remember that we have to get this right this time, because we may not have the option to get it right the next time.
I know something about the impact of passing legislation without the strong support of the people. When Congress pushed through a $700 billion bill to address our nation's growing credit crisis, public opinion and support for that legislation went from plummeting to cratering. While that legislation is just now starting to show progress and impact, it isn't showing it fast enough. That is why an economic stimulus package focused solely on job creation, prompting greater investment in our economy and stimulating economic growth by reducing the tax burden on families and businesses, needs to be our immediate course of action.
I believe that both President Obama and the majority of both the House and Senate share the bipartisan goal to pass legislation that will create jobs, stimulate our economy and put money back into the hands of taxpayers, instead of rushing out of the gate and ramming through a massive spending bill.
I commend my colleagues in the Senate for the serious attention they are devoting to trying to fix this bill. This problem won't have a partisan fix; it will take both parties coming together to construct a true economic stimulus. Unfortunately, not enough has been done by all parties to fix the Senate version of the bill, and the product to be voted on in the coming days will not pass with the confidence of the Senate nor of the American people.
The severity of the crisis does not excuse a bill that merely serves as a catch-all for pork projects and massive spending on things that won't help us get out this mess. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said during debate last week, "A bill that was meant to be timely, targeted and temporary has instead become a Trojan horse for pet projects and expanded government."
We need a bill that stimulates the economy, rather than creating more massive debt for future generations to pay. Provisions for new ATV trails, remodeling of government buildings and new supercomputer activities in federal agencies are examples of provisions that don't belong in the package. Those may be addressed in other ways in the near future, but this stimulus bill must be a targeted, strong shot in the arm, rather than a do-it-all-at-once approach.
If we want to end the bitter, partisan divide that has plagued Washington, there is no better opportunity than with this legislation. Our aim should be to craft a bill that puts more money back in the hands of hardworking Americans, creates jobs and allows for economic growth. Such a bipartisan success will set the foundation for further growth and expansion of economic opportunities in the future.
Our goal ought to be to pass legislation that creates hope and confidence among consumers and business and generates investment in buying new homes, adding onto existing homes and encouraging businesses to expand and create more jobs.
This legislation will not do that.
The Senate should reject this legislation because not only is it not perfect, it's not good -- and it's not in the best interests of the people.
Norm Coleman's term in the Senate expired Jan. 3. He is a Republican from Minnesota.
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