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Op-Ed: Assessing the Recovery Act: 'The Best is Yet to Come'

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OP-ED by Vice President Joe Biden in Today's USA Today

USA TODAY

Assessing the Recovery Act: 'The Best is Yet to Come'

By Joe Biden

A year ago today, President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law. Time and again I am asked, "How can you say that the Recovery Act has worked when the unemployment rate is so much higher today than it was when the act was signed?" It's a fair question -- and one worth answering on this anniversary day.

First, we think the Recovery Act is working because of the progress we've made in slowing job loss. In the three months before the act took effect, America lost 750,000 jobs a month. In the last three months, we've lost about 35,000 jobs a month. That's progress -- not good enough, not where we need to be, but progress. And most economists agree that that progress is thanks in a very large part to the Recovery Act.

Independent economists believe that, thanks to the Recovery Act, about 2 million people are on the job today who would not have work otherwise. Is that good enough in an economy that has lost more than 8 million jobs? Of course not. But it is a lot better than the alternative.

Second, the Recovery Act is working because it is helping hard-hit families get through tough economic times. If you get a paycheck, you got a tax cut from the Recovery Act, which lowered the amount of withholding for over 95% of working Americans. If you are a senior citizen, or a veteran, you got a $250 check to help pay your bills. If you are unemployed, your benefits were extended thanks to the Recovery Act. In fact, these tax cuts and direct aid to individuals are the largest parts of the Recovery Act -- more than half of all Recovery Act spending has gone to cut taxes or provide relief to seniors, veterans and the unemployed.

Look around for results

Third, we know that the Recovery Act is working because we can see the results all around us. Thousands of road projects are not only creating jobs -- they are making for faster, safer transportation. Superfund sites are being cleaned up and commuter rail tracks are being repaired. Work is underway on water, weatherization and construction projects -- creating jobs now, and making critical improvements in our nation's infrastructure for the future.

And yet, to me, the most exciting thing about the Recovery Act is not what we've done, but what lies ahead. Many Recovery Act programs that will build the groundwork for the economy of the 21st century will be implemented in the next few months. Broadband access for small and rural communities. New factories where electric cars and clean fuel cells will be made. Wind farms, solar panels -- and the facilities to construct them. New health technologies and smarter electrical power grids will be creating jobs this year thanks to the Recovery Act. Truly, the best is yet to come.

'A long way to go'

We've gotten the act moving ahead of schedule, and most projects are coming in under budget. A tough, independent group of inspectors general is on the lookout for fraud, and we've killed scores of projects that don't pass muster. Your tax dollars are being used wisely and quickly to turn the economy around.

We're on track to meet or beat our goal of saving or creating 3.5 million jobs by the end of this year. Work on road, rail, bridge, airport and other infrastructure projects will expand dramatically as warm weather returns. Projects that needed final planning in 2009 will see construction in 2010.

Americans know this downturn isn't over yet -- we have a long way to go before we are over the economic chasm left by the Great Recession. Year Two of the Recovery Act will build on the successes of Year One, continuing to generate jobs while seeding the transformative investments needed to ensure that our economy remains the world's strongest.

Joe Biden is vice president of the United States.


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