Steve is an optimist and go-getter who left corporate America years ago to run a small business in Westport. Things were fine until recently. His sales have plummeted, he doesn't know how he'll continue to pay interest on his debt, including a second mortgage on his home, and he's got four kids looking forward to college.
Karen worked, saved and scraped to buy a home in Bridgeport. She refinanced her mortgage to pay off the student loans that were supposed to fund opportunity. Instead, she lost her job and is now losing her home.
Communities around the country are filled with these stories. Stories of the American Dream in reverse, of faded opportunity and lost hope. A staggering 3.6 million Americans have lost their jobs since this recession started. Last month, our country lost 20,000 a day. In the face of this kind of crisis, doing nothing is not an option.
Last week, I helped to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The act will save or create 3.5 million jobs -- 41,000 here in Connecticut with over 90 percent of those jobs in the private sector. The bill will boost our economy through a mix of immediate tax cuts and investments, which will help create jobs in the short run while preparing us for long-term economic prosperity.
More than a third of the bill takes the form of an immediate and much-needed tax cut for American families. Almost 1.5 million Connecticut families will soon see more money in their paychecks. More than 600,000 Connecticut families will avoid falling into the Alternative Minimum Tax trap. Thousands of small business will see their tax obligations reduced.
The bill also provides More than $500 million to help ease the brutal budget math confronting our state. The need for this funding caused Governor Rell to call me hours before the vote to ask what she could do to help assure its passage.
Finally, the bill contains substantial investment to bring our transportation, energy and health care systems into the 21st century. Connecticut will receive $487 million to improve its bridges, roadways and rail systems. Those seeking to create clean energy centers or green jobs in Bridgeport or Stamford will have access to millions of dollars designed to move us toward clean, cheap, American sources of energy.
The Recovery Act has come under substantial criticism in the last week, some fair, much unfair. Let me set the record straight.
The act contains unprecedented disclosure and accountability requirements. There is not one earmark in the bill. A new Web site, www.recovery.gov, will detail each project, including a description of why recovery funds should be used and contact information for each project. If requirements and timing aren't met, money will be clawed back.
Republicans in Congress have been quick to point out that this bill will grow the national debt. About that they are right. But setting aside the mind-bending chutzpah in that charge, economists from left to right -- from Robert Reich to Larry Lindsay -- have come before Congress to urge action on reviving the economy first and on the national debt second.
Groups across the political spectrum, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the League of Conservation Voters, have endorsed the bill. Mark Zandi, former economic adviser to presidential candidate John McCain said the plan "as laid out will provide a vital boost to the flagging economy."
The debt, of course, will be there, and rebuilding our economy demands a plan to reduce it once we are through this recession. Moreover, we must embrace the notion that our long-term prosperity depends on educating every American child and reversing the slide of our educational competitiveness. We must finish the work of stabilizing our financial system and housing markets. Finally, we must reform our broken health care system, which is slowly crushing our corporations and strangling our small businesses, even as we turn in some of the worst health indicators in the industrialized world.
None of this will be easy, but for generations, in moments of crisis, Americans have made the tough, necessary choices. Now it's our turn.