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EconomicPolicyInstitute January 8, 2009

Although not quite in the White House yet, President-elect Barack Obama is already moving forward with his plan to get the American economy back on track, urging Congress to take quick action so he will be able to sign legislation early this year. His approach incorporates many ideas that EPI has favored, including a massive stimulus package to rebuild our transportation, education, and energy infrastructure while creating millions of good jobs. However, EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey questioned the inclusion of business tax cuts, especially accelerated depreciation and a $3,000 credit for hiring new employees that will do little to stimulate the economy.

Obama is clearly right in urging bold, immediate action. The consequences of doing nothing are dire, as outlined in this quick take by EPI President Lawrence Mishel and Research and Policy Director John Irons. Nearly 2 million jobs have already been lost since the recession began in December 2007, and EPI’s research shows that a total of 5.5 million jobs would likely be lost if nothing is done. The unemployment rate could reach 10.2% by mid-2010. However, a stimulus plan in the range of $700 to $800 billion could lower the peak rate to 7% while shortening the recession’s length. No matter what, job losses will be deep and prolonged, far outlasting the technical definition of a recession, according to this week’s Economic Snapshot.

Education changes needed too
Change must come to education policy as well. As research associate Richard Rothstein and board member Pedro Noguera explain in this Policy Memo, the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law has failed to truly improve the performance of most students. What is needed is a new accountability policy that uses broader measures of learning and addresses the stubborn achievement gap between groups of students.

A new Web site for a new era
EPI will launch a dramatically improved Web site this Monday, just in time for what promises to be a new era in U.S. economic policy. This new site will be easier to navigate, will feature links to worthwhile publications of the day, and will allow our researchers to respond more quickly to breaking economic news. It has been a long time coming, and we are anxious to roll it out and see what you, our readers, think. Please stop by for a look on Monday afternoon at www.epi.org.

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