Publius Speaks

Publius Speaks
Become A Follower

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Way To Go, Mr. President

Hooray for President Obama!  He has finally made some bold moves to point up the failures of Congress while taking actions that support the broad middle class.  What’s more, he is finding ways to do this by Executive Order, acting in spite of an uncooperative Congress. 

Strangely enough, I spoke of the need for this kind of bold action at least a year ago when I wrote to the White House.  My latest call for such action, titled “Bold Action Is Imperative”, appeared on this Blog on June 12, 2011.  What I said then was “what Obama needs to do is to come up with a PLAN of bold steps touted with massive publicity that is unrelenting.”  I even suggested that parts of that Plan should be: the faster draw-down of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; a massive infrastructure/jobs bill; extension of unemployment benefits; and, an increase in tuition grants and loans for college students.  

I certainly can’t take credit for the President’s Plan, but I, for one, am grateful for his actions.  From some reports, he has more such actions up his sleeve, and I hope they include the use of already-appropriated, but unspent, funds that could legally be used for the creation of jobs or job-related activities.  I spoke here of such possibilities in my Blog of May 15, 2011, when I listed several areas of jobs that can be created and offered through the Corporation for National and Community Service, through the Labor Department and through OPM, the Job Corps, and the Veteran’s Administration, to name a few. 

What I would suggest is that the President’s staff should be culling through various departments and offices of the federal government (and talking with governors of states) to determine what unspent funds are available to be used for job creation and support (such as training).  Even with the government under a Continuing Resolution for FY2012, there are unspent funds available. 

Secondly, what about stimulus monies that have gone unspent in TARP, ARRA, and TANF?  Certainly at the end of 2010, we heard a great deal about such unspent funds, or at least of projects that were not “shovel-ready.”  There is no greater stimulus needed than jobs, job training, and incentives for job creation in the private sector. 

There have to be funds already authorized and appropriated that have gone unspent.  How about it, Mr. President?  Can you and your administrative staff find ways to use this money NOW for our greatest needs: job creation and job stimulus?  And, by the way, if Congress puts up a fuss because they want that unspent money to be cut from our budget deficit, tell them that the American people are suffering and there is no greater need right now than that of relief for the broad middle class!

Here are some recent examples of unspent funds that I have been able to find:

1)  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) - apparently, not only are there carry-over funds available, but there is an Emergency Fund also available.  It seems likely that the Emergency funds can be used to subsidize employment.  Previously, carry-over funds could only be used to provide assistance (the ongoing basic needs payment, and supportive services such as transportation and child care to families not employed). Now jurisdictions (States, Territories, D.C., and Tribes) may use any unspent Federal TANF money from a prior fiscal year to provide any allowable TANF benefit, service, or activity – i.e., not just assistance

2)  Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)
This was originally meant by the Bush administration to relieve big banks from some of their toxic assets, so they could maintain liquidity and solvency.  In February 2009, President Obama’s administration proposed to use some of the unspent TARP money to aid small businesses (and to pay down the deficit).  The debacle that ensued ended up with Congress wanting to spend all money returned to the fund on the deficit.  Question is, is there any money leftover still from the TARP legislation, and if so, can it be used creatively to aid more middle class homeowners, small business owners, and unemployed workers? 

3)  American Recovery and Re-Investment Act (ARRA) - the $48.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the $10 billion in additional Title I aid and the $11.3 billion in additional special education funds—were supposed to be spent by states by October 1, 2011 but an extension to spend has been granted.  According to a recent article by Michele McNeil, the states have $2.28 billion left to draw down between those three funds—a total that doesn't include smaller special education programs, such as the one for infants, Title I School Improvement Grants, and Race to the Top, which have a longer spending timeline.   Again, money is leftover, so is there any way to involve states with such money to hire additional teachers for special education, and construction workers to rehab rundown schools?

4)  Is there any unused or un-granted or wasted money that can be used toward job creation?  Here’s a thought for President Obama:  find a useless program in the Executive branch (like the outmoded RUS of DoA); offer to shut it down and use the saved money for job creation if Congress will agree to shut-down a useless office (like that of Chaplains) and do the same.  Quite seriously, the GAO Report of March 2011 on Opportunities to Reduce Duplication in Government Programs offered numerous examples of waste and duplication that could produce needed funds, not just for deficit reduction, but for job creation.

Here’s a thought: why not announce an evaluation of all government programs and contracts in order to find savings that can be used for job creation?  Let’s get serious about re-inventing government and, at the same time, use savings to create job opportunities. 

Unfortunately, the path that the President has chosen has its limits, both constitutionally and politically.  He can only get so far with Executive Orders because the Congress is not going to put up with that forever.  He is also limited in the scope of Executive power by the Constitution, which gave the lion’s share of central power to the Legislature and limited the scope of the Executive’s power.  Of course, the evolution of a so-called “Imperial Presidency” has helped to grow the President’s ability to act on his own.

So now that the President has found his BOLD side, let us not waste this opportunity.  Progressives should take this as their opportunity to make suggestions to the White House for ways to divert money into job creation without involving the do-nothing Congress.  Any thoughts out there?  Please share them at my e-mail address: