Economy & Budget

Employment picture brightens

Recent economic data show more encouraging signs for the economic recovery. However, we aren’t out of the woods yet. Vigilance is required to ensure the correct policy decisions are made to continue the recovery in the short and long-term.

Last week's employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the economy added 222,000 private sector jobs last month -- the 12th straight month of employment gains in the private sector. 

The employment gains were broad-based. Nearly every sector of the economy gained jobs in February. The manufacturing sector, a barometer of our nation’s global competitiveness, added 33,000 jobs last month and nearly 200,000 since the end of 2009. Health care, a source of employment gains even throughout the recent recession, gained another 34,000 jobs.  

While too many Americans are still unemployed, the economy is recovering. The bipartisan tax compromise in December along with earlier actions taken by Congress, including the HIRE Act and the Recovery Act, have helped put the economy onto firmer ground.


Our nation's diverse transportation infrastructure

Check out The Hill's new policy blog, Transportation Report.

Congress has a very serious responsibility as it considers several transportation bills ranging from surface transportation, aviation, and water infrastructure that should be of highest priority for all members of Congress because of its vital importance to job creation and our national economy.

As a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and former Chairwoman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, I fully appreciate that the safe and efficient transfer of goods, services, and people forms the very foundation of every facet of our economy.


Building for the 21st century economy

Please check out The Hill's new policy blog, Transportation Report.

In my home town of St. Louis, the Kingshighway Bridge connects South St. Louis with the business core of the region. Thirty thousand cars and trucks cross this bridge every day – carrying people to work and school, getting sick patients to Barnes Jewish and St. Louis Children’s Hospitals, moving goods into and out of the city.

And it is falling apart.

Exposed rebar, cracked concrete – this critical artery for life and commerce in St. Louis requires nearly daily safety checks.


Investing in essential infrastructure

Please check out The Hill's new policy blog, Transportation Report.

In this era of newfound austerity, it is imperative Washington spends each dollar wisely. Now is the time to tighten our belts and focus on investing in projects that will grow the economy, create jobs, and give substantial help to the American people no matter where they live. 

The way to do this is by investing in essential infrastructure like road and bridge construction. This investment will not only help accelerate our economic recovery, but will establish new routes of commercial exchange that will benefit Americans for decades to come.


Interchange regulation ultimately injures consumers

The Federal Reserve’s proposed debit card interchange rule has generated a lot of buzz lately. And with all the voices vying to be heard, it is more important than ever to be clear about the real harm the Fed’s proposal will cause to consumers, the financial institutions that serve them, and the broader economy.

When Congress passed an amendment directing the Fed to assess reasonable and proportional fees on debit interchange – the penny or two that retailers pay every time they choose to accept debit cards for payment – it did so at the 11th hour, without hearings, committee action or informed debate on the amendment. 


Making high-speed rail a national priority

Please check out The Hill's newest policy blog, Transportation Report.

“High speed rail.” The image I associate with those words is a comfortable and smooth ride. The view out the window is a pleasant blur and passengers vary from families to business travelers. The journey concludes sooner than expected, but the destination happens to be somewhere in Europe or Asia. It should be a journey that takes place here in the United States.

Throughout the world, countries have poured substantial resources into high speed rail. Japan opened its first high speed rail line in 1964, and now captures 85% of the air/rail market between Tokyo and Osaka. France opened their first high speed rail line in 1981, and by 2009 had 1,160 miles of high speed rail line. More recently, in 1992, Spain opened its first high speed rail line and by 2003, Spain’s government spending on rail infrastructure surpassed their spending on roads.


Playing chicken with the federal budget

As Republicans, Democrats, and President Obama try to negotiate over continuing resolutions and the federal budget, both sides are pursuing partisan strategies that risk a government shutdown. Similar to a game a chicken, both sides are daring the other to hold out and risk a shutdown or to compromise and lose points with the electoral base. However, both the history of previous government shutdowns and contemporary polling highlight the precarious position for both sides.

The lessons from the government shutdowns with Clinton and the Republicans illustrate the potential risk to both sides. In 1995-1996, the public initially sided with congressional Republicans, but ultimately sided with President Clinton. Although the shutdown did not substantially hurt the Republicans in the subsequent election, it did hurt approval of their leader, Newt Gingrich.


The benefits of oil payment reporting

As the start date for new SEC rules for oil, gas and mining disclosure approaches, the oil industry is fighting a rearguard action to water down the Dodd-Frank provisions, which require registered companies to report payments made to governments for oil and mineral extraction.

In commentary on this blog Monday, the oil industry’s U.S. lobby, the American Petroleum Institute (API), praised the statute's "laudable goal" of "providing the citizens of resource-rich, developing countries with the information they need to hold their governments accountable."

Unfortunately, the rest of this entry was given over to scare tactics about the supposed dangers of better company reporting. API’s Ms. McGowen writes of the ‘threat’ of “unforeseen consequences” of the new law, invoking the jarring image of a Doberman pinscher mauling hundreds of teddy bears.


Put children first: Do no harm to kids in federal appropriations

Beginning in medical school and continuing on through a lifetime of practice, physicians abide by the pledge “Primum non nocere,” or, “First, do no harm.” Today, our nation’s pediatricians are calling on Congress to make the same promise as they advance Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations: First, do no harm... to children.

In this tough economic environment, we all share concerns about passing on our national debt to future generations. Curbing spending is inevitably part of the solution, but it should not come at the expense of our nation’s most valuable and most vulnerable resource, our children.


Democrats aren’t up to the challenge on deficit reduction

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday regarding the need for budget cuts, entitlement reforms, and the lack of leadership on the Colombia and Panama Free Trade Agreements:

Later today, senators will have an opportunity to take a position on government spending.

At a time when Washington is borrowing about $4 billion a day, Democrat leaders want to cut about four and a half billion in government spending for the rest of the fiscal year, and then call it a day.

In other words, they want to take what amounts to a day and a half long holiday from their out-of-control spending and then return to the status quo for the rest of the year.