Monday, June 15, 2009

GUEST COLUMN: "Are we better off than we were four months ago?"

By Rep. Jean Schmidt

There is no doubt that our country is still languishing in a recession. But things in Ohio are far worse. The Ohio unemployment rate, if you include those that have simply given up looking for work or are only working part-time, is an astounding 18%. New unemployment numbers are to be released next Friday and they will certainly be even worse.

Just last week, President Obama convened his Cabinet and urged them to spend stimulus dollars faster – a tacit acknowledgement that the stimulus was not serving its intended purpose. It hasn’t stimulated anything. Even Vice President Biden this past weekend began lowering expectations on job creations as a result of the stimulus package.

In almost four months since the bill was passed and signed, more than 1.6 million jobs have been lost, including three hundred forty thousand in last month alone. That is in stark contrast to the 150,000 jobs the President claims it has “created or saved“ When Congress considered the stimulus package earlier this year, the Administration claimed that, if we did nothing, unemployment would rise to just over 9%. And, if we did enact the stimulus plan, unemployment would top out at around 8%. The majority in Congress approved the stimulus bill and we continue to hemorrhage jobs. Unemployment currently stands at 10.2% in Ohio .

One of my major concerns about the legislation -- aside from the massive federal debt we are putting on our children and grandchildren -- was that the spending needed to be targeted and timely. Reports indicate that, to date, approximately $44 billion out of a $787 billion bill has actually been spent. The vast majority of the funding that has already been spent has not created jobs. Further what little funding has made it to Ohio has demonstrated that Ohio must not be a target. I voted for an alternative plan that spent half as much money and would have created 7 million jobs.

So here we sit, four months later with 1.6 million fewer Americans working. The Federal response was typical – slow and sloppy. Thus far, the result is unacceptable.

Ohioans are losing their jobs at a record pace. The economic climate in Ohio is far worse than the national average. A report published this week indicates that, so far, Ohio has received only $1.95 per resident in stimulus money. Two dollars per person has done very little to lessen the pain Ohio feels.

Today Moody’s bond rating service lowered the quality of Ohio bonds on doubts that Ohio will soon recover.

Ohio’s pain is growing. Ohio should and does deserve better than what has been delivered. We suffer while we wait.