Both Dick Howe and his co-blogger, Paul Marion have blogged about the meeting at Middlesex College this AM, when Senator Kerry, Representative Tsongas, State Senator Panagiotakos, State Rep Murphy (joined somewhat later by State Rep Nangle), Mayor Milinazzo and City Manager Lynch.
There were other local dignitaries present, including a couple of City Councillors (Joseph M. Mendonça and Franky D. Descoteaux and Patrick Murphy, who was introduced, but I did not see) and people from other communities. UMass Lowell history professor and sometime commenter on the Dick Howe Blog, Bob Forrant, was there. I also saw political activist Jack Mitchell. Jackie Doherthy was there, as was WCAP co-owner Sam Poulten.
Notwithstanding the presence of Joe Mendonça and myself, I had the sense that this was a Democratic Party affair (more detail on that later), right up to the Q&A, when the small indications of the presence of Lyndon LaRouche people turned into a very active presence.
Although billed as a "round table discussion on the economy and jobs" it was really Senator Kerry's show. While many spoke, the spotlight was clearly on Senator Kerry. But, the Mayor, Jim Milinazzo, kicked off this shindig. One of the things that surprised me was the Mayor saying that Lowell's unemployment rate was 9.4%, compared to the national number of 10.0%. But, overall the Commonwealth is at the same level, 9.4%,♠ and December was up from November. Today's report in The Boston Globe was not encouraging. The article, "Bay State Economy Slips, While US Grows", says that the US economy grew at 5.7% for last quarter, while the Commonwealth's economy was at -0.2% (that would be shrinkage, as opposed to growth).
Next to State Senator Steve Panagiotakos, clearly the smartest man or woman in the room. He told us flat out that Government can't create jobs, but it can create the environment in which jobs can be created. That would be the 90% of all firms that are small businesses, with 50 or fewer employees. And in the middle of February, unless something is done, those small businesses, and larger ones, are going to get a rude shock, when their contribution to unemployment funds jumps from about $120 per employee (Schedule E) to about $300 per employee (Schedule G). Those coffers have to be filled somehow and having employers contribute has been part of the process. The Great and General Court is addressing this issue now.
Representative Niki Tsongas said that unemployment in the Merrimack Valley exceeds the state-wide average, which is what it feels like.
Then Senator John Kerry held forth for the majority of the time, standing away from the podium and without his crutch (that is, the thing he uses to walk). He notes that political power on Capitol Hill is moving to the Southwest, as population grows in that area, but extols the local Democratic Party Representatives for helping to hold the line. He does note that to bring the economy back we need a local, state and federal partnership and the involvement of the tax paying public.
The Senator talked about the President meeting with the Republicans in the House yesterday and then talked about GOP intransigence. To save time, it is all the fault of Republicans, especially George W Bush, but also including Ronald Reagan. He also talked about being in a war we didn't need to be in (incontrovertible fact), but he didn't mention which one, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines or some other place. (Jack Mitchell's favorite line from the meeting was from Senator Kerry: "'Bush borrowed money from the Chinese to give the rich a tax break.")
We are on the rebound, but jobs lag the recovery.
It is Senator Kerry's contention that we are not going to compete with China with regard to low cost jobs. We are in and need to be in the high tech area; things like bio-technology. Thus, education is important. We can not afford to be cutting our seed corn. Thus, we need deficit spending to prime the pump.
One of the points Senator Kerry made was that we need to change our energy policy and we need to include the "price" of having a carbon based economy. He noted that a couple of weeks ago he had had himself tested for heavy metals and his body was at 4 times the EPA upper limit. The Senator noted we need to push for US energy independence. Later, in the Q&A the question of energy came up and the Senator said that we would be dependent on current energy sources for 30 or 40 more years, but that we needed to be working on green energy and green energy jobs. When asked about fusion, he noted that he had recently talked to both the Secretary of Energy and the President's Science Advisor, both Nobel Prize Winners♥, and both said that fusion is still a long ways off (Blogger Comment: can't we have some sort of Manhattan Project for this?).
Railroads came up and the recent allocation of $8 Billion (with a B) to build High Speed rail and commuter rail. It was announced by the President on the 28th of January. (Blogger Comment: I so much wanted to ask Senator Kerry or Rep Tsongas what their Lordships down in DC thought constituted "high speed rail", but I kept my mouth shut and didn't embarrass myself. I think I will send letters. Should I include the TSW?)
Then it was Q&A time and several of the Lyndon LaRouche folks were ready to do battle.
But, there was an interesting question about the President's plan to add fees to big banks. Someone thought it would just be passed on to the customers. As Senator Kerry said, everything gets passed on. He did make the point that with the fees only going to the major banks the competition of smaller banks might serve to keep the big banks from passing them on, rather than absorbing them.
I won't bore you any more.
Regards — Cliff
♠ I am wondering if this number is not a bit messed up. The responsible State Agency has us at 12.0% for December 2009.
♥ I am not sure that being a Nobel Laureate has the same cachet it once did, given that they gave one to Paul Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times (and PhD economist).