Braley, Michaud want "Buy American" provisions in jobs bill

Populist Caucus Chairman Bruce Braley (IA-01) and House Trade Working Group Chairman Mike Michaud (ME-02) wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer today, urging them to make sure the upcoming jobs bill contains a strong "Buy American" provision. From a press release Braley's office issued:

"Recently, as America has suffered the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, unemployment has risen and is now around 10 percent," the letter reads. "We believe that the shipment of American jobs overseas is a factor in this rising unemployment.  If we are going to pass a strong job creation bill then it only makes sense to include strong Buy American provisions, to further ensure that the jobs created as a result of this legislation are created within the United States.

"We have an obligation to create jobs in America. While some would argue that Buy American is nothing more than a trade protectionist label, it is clear that these provisions would equate to greater investment, and greater job-creation, within the U.S.  In addition, Buy American provisions are perfectly legal under current trade agreements and many other nations use similar mechanisms to protect their domestic manufacturers.  Therefore, we feel that it is entirely appropriate that this language be included in any upcoming job-creation measure, and we believe that this provision is essential to creating and retaining American jobs.

The stimulus bill Congress approved in February contained "Buy American" language despite a massive corporate lobbying effort.

Speaking of provisions likely to be included in the jobs bill, making homes more energy efficient would produce huge collateral benefits, as A Siegel explains at the Get Energy Smart Now blog. Money that homeowners and business owners save on utility bills is money they can spend on other goods and services.

In his speech today, President Obama also mentioned aid to state and local governments in his speech today. That would help state legislators close gaps in the budgets for fiscal year 2011, which begins on July 1 in most states.

Republicans in Iowa (and presumably elsewhere) keep complaining about Democrats using federal transfers to balance the state budget, but they ignore the reality that deep cuts in state budgets are themselves a drag on the economy. State employee layoffs have a ripple effect in the private sector. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently estimated that without additional federal fiscal relief, "states will have to take steps to eliminate deficits for state fiscal year 2011 that will likely take nearly a full percentage point off the Gross Domestic Product. That, in turn, could cost the economy 900,000 jobs next year."

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Will Green Stimulus Money Go to China?

Developers of a massive 36,000-acre wind farm in West Texas will be seeking federal stimulus money for the project which will include 240 2.5-megawatt wind turbines.

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Braley ready to roll out House Populist Caucus

Representative Bruce Braley (IA-01) announced plans to form a Populist Caucus in December. According to the Huffington Post, Braley plans to roll out the new caucus this week. (Hat tip David Sirota.)

Huffington Post lists most of the 21 founding members, who come from all over the country. There are moderates like Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Phil Hare (IL-17), progressives like Keith Ellison (MN-05) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and netroots heroes like Eric Massa (NY-29) and Pete DeFazio (OR-04). According to Huffington Post, Braley would be open to having Republicans join the caucus, although only Democrats have signed up so far.

Braley's letter inviting colleagues to join the caucus listed these key points of the Populist Caucus agenda:

1. Fighting for working families and the middle class through the establishment of an equitable tax structure, fair wages, proper benefits, a level playing field at the negotiating table, and secure, solvent retirement plans.
  1. Providing affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans.
  2. Ensuring accessible, quality primary education for all American children, and affordable college education for all who want it.
  3. Protecting consumers, so that Americans can once again have faith in the safety and effectiveness of the products they purchase.
  4. Defending American competitiveness by fighting for fair trade principles.
  5. Creating and retaining good-paying jobs in America.

Huffington Post also had this encouraging news:

The Populist Caucus will make its first major play by advocating for the inclusion of a "Buy American" provision in the stimulus package.

Bring it on. The "Buy American" provision is important if we want the stimulus to create jobs in the U.S. rather than taxpayer-funded outsourcing.

Though only starting his second term in Congress, Braley is rising fast. He landed a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee after aggressively advocating for Henry Waxman to replace John Dingell as its chairman. He is also one of three vice-chairs of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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