2011-10-28 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

Our Economy In Uncertain Times
By City Councilman James Sanders Jr.

It’s no secret that the economy has been slow in recovering from the worldwide recession. So slow in fact, that many have stopped using the word “recovery” to define our current economic state, and some prominent economists are starting to publicly flirt with the phrase “double dip,” especially when referring to the woeful state of the American job market. President Barack Obama rode a wave of optimism and renewed hope that propelled him to the White House, but even his most avid supporters are becoming wary. Where are the big ideas to kick-start the economy? Where are the bold moves designed to put people back to work?

New York City, meanwhile, according to the New York State Department of Labor, had an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent in August. While below the national average, that still equates to more than 600,000 out-of-work New Yorkers.

President Obama’s jobs plan is, at best, a half measure. While far better than nothing and certainly better than the slash and burn approach, championed by the right, which would effectively make government a non-entity, the plan is still little more than the second half of the stimulus package enacted when he first took office. Meanwhile, vital programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Unemployment Insurance are all facing severe cuts that will only further undermine the economy.

If ever there was a time for bold action, for sweeping reform, for a major overhaul of New York City’s economy, the time is now. There are any number of economic policies that, if pursued, could make New York City a national leader in building a true 21st century economy. The construction of light rail, expanded access to broadband, the development and use of urban and vertical farming techniques, the development of pocket parks and infrastructural improvements in the outer boroughs; all could have overwhelmingly positive and immediate impact on our economy.

To enact these policies requires the courage and fortitude, to say nothing of the political will and capital, to fund such projects and see them through to fruition. Doing nothing, or further cutting, only adds holes to an already leaking ship. Spending endlessly on a credit card only runs up our national debt while contributing very little to the economy. Both are equally foolish, and equally wasteful.

The one positive that should have come out of the Great Recession was a realization that we must turn toward one another for answers; that every idea and ideology has something valuable to bring to the table, if only we can see past our own shortsightedness and put politics aside.

Economists will tell you that a recession offers unique opportunities for bold and swift action.

I encourage our government at every level, to seize them.

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