Reading the newspaper or watching the news on T.V. has been a bit harrowing lately. There is no question that the economic news is bleak and the threats from abroad are growing. In my job, I talk with many people throughout South Florida. Whether it's in the grocery store, at my kids' school, or meeting with a local Chamber of Commerce, there is a marked sense of anxiety in the air.
However, we need to remember that America has been through much harder times, and that America is always at its strongest and best when aspiring to greater things. I share the deep concern of my constituents as we watch the significant job losses, the foreclosures, and other signs of an economic downturn.
But the good news is President-elect Barack Obama is assembling an experienced and aggressive team of individuals to get America back on track. Obama's choices for his Administration show that he is developing an antidote to what has become Washington's most toxic element –divisive partisan politics. President-Elect Obama is clearly looking to end the partisan gridlock which has poisoned Washington and prevented even common sense ideas, like expanding health insurance for lower income children, from being adopted.
I believe President-elect Obama and FDR have similar qualities that benefit the country in times like these. In the face of economic conditions that many thought could bring down our government, FDR focused on helping those in need get back on their feet, and at the same time pulled America out of its economic depression. The greatest of FDR's "New Deal" programs was, in my mind, Social Security. Before Social Security many of the seniors in this country lived in poverty, unable to work and with no social safety net. Hundreds of thousands of seniors were subjected to eating in soup kitchens, begging, and living in poor houses. Instead of hunkering down in the middle of a depression, FDR implemented what is undeniably one of the most successful government programs in our nation's history and provided a dignified retirement for millions of Americans.
Like FDR, Obama is developing a "New Deal" for the 21st Century. With our nation losing nearly 2 million jobs, President-elect Obama is highlighting elements of the economic recovery and jobs program he is developing with Congressional leaders. His plan will create the largest public works construction program since the inception of the interstate highway system a half century ago, with a focus on creating new-era jobs in technology and green jobs that reduce energy use and global warming emissions. The goal is to create, or save, 2.5 million American jobs. It will cover a range of programs to expand broadband Internet access, to make government buildings more energy efficient, to improve information technology at hospitals and doctors' offices, and to upgrade computers in schools.
Some say that in our current economic downturn, we'll be unable to tackle the 47 million Americans who lack health insurance, a problem whose time has come. The truth is that Universal health insurance is needed now more than ever. With our tremendous job losses, the number of uninsured Americans is even higher than the nearly 47 million Americans who already were without health insurance.
President-elect Obama's commitment to work across party lines provides us with an incredible opportunity to enact the changes our nation needs to restore the American dream for our children.
American ingenuity, productivity, and perseverance are second to none. We've proven this time and time again; when challenged by global poverty and despair in the 1930s, by Fascism in the 1940s, and by the space race of the 1960s. America is always at its finest when it sets its sights aloft and thinks big. Now is one of those times when we as a nation need to come together and remember: not only can we survive the challenges that lay before us, we can unite and be even stronger in spite of them.
In the meantime, during this season of reflection and giving, we need to be particularly mindful that many of our neighbors here in South Florida need our help. Unfortunately, just as the number of people needing assistance from local service organizations increases, the organizations themselves are struggling because donations decrease in leaner times. For those that have the capability, we must band together as a community and lend a helping hand to those who may be struggling this season, without a hand to hold.
In Washington, I'll be working hard to help President-elect Obama get America back on track and to pass programs that help our working families; from job creation and universal health insurance to mortgage assistance and college affordability. Back home in Florida, I'll be taking extra time to help out those in need. I hope you can as well.
How can I help you? You can reach my office in Pembroke Pines at (954) 437-3936, in Aventura at (305) 936-5724, or in Washington, DC at (202) 225-7931. You may also reach me online, where you can subscribe to my electronic newsletter at: www.house.gov/ wasssermanschult z.