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    Claudia Chalfa

    Contact Your Senator to Oppose Amendment 309
    Take Action!

    Dear ASLA Advocate,

    Today the Senate will be voting on various amendments to the stimulus package. One of those amendments, proposed by Senator Coburn (OK) states: “no funds in the bill can be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.”

    As landscape architects and advocates for active living, you know the important role that local parks play in the health and well-being of communities, and that the public’s reliance on local parks will only increase in this economic climate. Furthermore, by forbidding any funds from going towards highway beautification projects, many sectors, including landscape architects, are left with fewer opportunities for employment, at a time when our struggling economy desperately needs it.

    By clicking on “Take Action” below and entering your ZIP code, you can get the contact information to CALL your senator TODAY and ask them to oppose the Coburn Amendment prohibiting stimulus funding for community parks and highway beautification!

    Here is the link:

    David J. Chirico

    Is this really from ASLA? I’m not in agreement with them on this one if it is. The idea of “economic stimulus” is to get money in the hands of people and businesses right away, like in the next 6 months, so they can spend and invest it. I don’t see how building a community park or golf course achieves that. Mr. Coburn seems to be doing the right thing for Oklahoma.

    We can debate the most effective way to stimulate the economy, and what’s listed above will ultimately benefit the profession but how does it stimulate the American economy right away?

    Claudia Chalfa

    well, that is the Republican argument, David…that cutting taxes will fix the problem.

    The problem is, it doesn’t do any good to cut your taxes if you don’t have a job. I’m pretty moderate; I think that the economic stimulus should include both tax cuts and spending, and I am glad to see they are trimming some of the pork out of the bill. But the reality is we are going to have to spend some money to fix this economy. And if Coburn’s bill goes through, then the infrastructure money will go straight to DOT and civil engineers, and more ugly roads will be built in places where they aren’t needed, and they won’t be well-designed and pedestrian friendly, either. So why not take that money and create something beautiful that will actually make America a nicer place to live? Isn’t that what landscape architects do?

    Claudia Chalfa

    The government is attempting to “jump start” the economy with their stimulus package. They don’t know if it will work, it’s an experiment. Republicans say cut taxes, Democrats say spend on infrastructure to create jobs. Truth is I think both are important, and this is why our government system works so well – it’s balanced. Ok, right now it’s leaning a little bit in the spending direction because there are more democrats in power…but the President can’t afford to isolate himself too much from Republicans because he will need them to pass some of his legislation later. That’s why he is listening to them and allowing this bill to be trimmed.

    Real estate values won’t grow until the banks start lending money, and banks won’t start lending money until people have jobs to pay mortgages. So, in reality creating jobs is probably the most important part of the stimulus, and that comes from cutting taxes (so employers can afford to pay employees) and making work for people (like infrastructure, national park service,etc) The similarities with the great depression and FDR’s New Deal are enough to make us think that this job creation strategy might work; it worked before. Even with the cost of WW2 we managed to recover and come back as a very prosperous nation in the fifties.

    I am optimistic that this package will help. I don’t know how much, but I have a lot riding on the economy right now so I am very interested in how this plays out. I didn’t work my butt off for the last three years as a single Mom, to get my MLA, so I could go and do something else.

    David J. Chirico

    I would not swing that broad sword of “it doesn’t do any good to cut taxes if you don’t have a job”. This is worth the read:

    Its noble of the government to jump start the economy by creating jobs but what about the ones that were lost or in jeopardy of going away now? No mention of those? There are numbers from 500,000 to 2 million lost and its only February. To say the government is trying to create jobs at this stage is like saying they could reconstruct my hand when it was cut off at the elbow.

    They need to stop the bleeding first, and $600 million for hybrid vehicles for federal employees, $200 million for contraceptives and $21 million to re-sod the National Mall doesn’t make sense to me right now. Re-sodding the mall is great for a few months worth of work, but what happens after that money is spent and the sod is down? I don’t see long term sustainability there.

    Building a road for the sake of building a road whether it is by an LA or a PE doesn’t make much sense to me either. I have no disdain for who gets the work, I want to see people employed, and I want fiscal responsibility. That’s my opinion, and I don’t think its a democratic or republican one.

    I do feel your passion though, and I’m glad you are out there discussing the issue!

    Claudia Chalfa

    The former CEO of General Electric was on CNN today saying that what we really need to be paying attention to is the TARP situation and how we handle the bank bailouts. His view is that the only way to fix this is to get the banks to start lending again, immediately. As he put it, this is a patient in ICU and the blood that we need to get flowing again is CREDIT.

    Also, realize that the amount of money estimated to have been spent by the time we finish the war in Iraq will be $3 trillion. Just to put things in perspective with regards to this economic stimulus…at least it isn’t going to kill anyone.

    By the way, David, the link you sent me was to a quote by Mitt Romney, a hard-line republican who is saying…the same thing all hard-line GOPers are saying. I wouldn’t exactly call his viewpoint balanced or moderate.

    Claudia Chalfa

    Also, think about this aspect of spending: it doesn’t just affect the workers who are out there re-sodding the mall. That sod has to be purchased from a grower, who employs people. The irrigation manufacturer benefits, too. The tools needed for the job, every aspect of that seemingly unnecessary job has a knock-on effect somewhere else. that is the idea behind stimulus..that it will get commerce flowing again. However, I agree with you that only spending will not solve the problem. The same goes for condoms, hybrid vehicles, or whatever…and to be honest I think the auto manufacturers will be glad to find out someone is buying cars, even if it is the government. The spending will start things off, and get people earning again…the tax cuts will make it possible for businesses to pick up when the government money runs out. This is the best plan we have right now. Unless you have a better solution, I think its time for us to sit back and let smart people try to make this happen.

    David J. Chirico

    Well that was a CNN article, so I figured his republican viewpoit was cancelled out …

    TARP sounded necessary, but we are talking about this economic stimulus package.

    I agree with you, the smart people need to be heard, I just hope the house and senate listen to people like Coburn and Romney rather than discrediting them for their party preference.


    I don’t think it would be that tenuous to relate at least a fair margin of our current economic and social state to poor planning and design, which in turn is a product of how we chose to build infrastructure and use land due to the social changes post world war II. Obviously, that methodology isn’t working economically or socially. I’m not saying this reasoning is entirely wrong, but that I just don’t fully understand the genius in repairing a failing system like our national highways, but discarding components of good land planning like parks and certain civic amenities. It’s clear that what Senator Coburn has proposed is aimed at trimming the fat. I’d just be worried that such a proposal will have a reverberating affect, continuing the ideologies regarding land use and design that I believe may have played a great role in leading us into our current situation and further marginalizing professions like landscape architecture and planning.

    Could funds from the package still be used for alternative transportation projects or is this a big repave the highways project? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Oklahoma known for pouring vast amounts of money into building and maintaining their highway system?



    I dont know how it is where you are (NY/NJ?), but here in Colorado it seems at times development happens in the middle of nowhere, near nothing.

    I wouldn’t say building parks is going to solve the nations problems or even this professions, but that the legislators may be careful in the wording of such amendments as Coburns so that we, as a nation, don’t get pigeon-holed into more highway development, but in contrast there is room for Transit-oriented planning, urban infill (which in my mind require at least allotment for public space ie parks) and alternative transportation construction. In my mind, if the current situation has any resemblence to Roosevelts New Deal why not create jobs building infrastucture for the future. If the core issue is actually job creation, I would actually think there could be more jobs created with the latter than the former.

    Admittedly, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the issue, but notice I never said “sustainable.”

    David J. Chirico
    Claudia Chalfa

    Ok, but that article doesn’t define “government spending”. For example, would it factor in money spent on the Iraq war?

    David J. Chirico

    Good points Andrew.

    Claudia, I would enjoy discussing governement spending and the Iraq war anytime with you, you seem like a very motivated person. But its off this topic.

    My whole intention of even posting a response was that ASLA, the organization that most people on this forum belong to, is rallying its troops to support what seems to be its own interests rather than the interests of this country. If we were not looking to stop the economy from tanking it would be a noble goal. In my opinion this is misdirected at this point in time.

    Three months ago this would be called deficit spending. Today its under the guise of economic stimulus. The governemnt does not produce wealth, people do. Making more people government employees is not economic stimulus. As its stands, support is lessening and the amount of money in the package is decreasing, both of which are a step in the right direction.

    Claudia Chalfa

    This is the article that you referred us to on page one, Andrew:

    Unemployment and Stimulus

    By Brian Wesbury on 2.6.09 @ 5:37PM

    The strangest thing happened on Friday. It was reported that the U.S. economy lost 600,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate jumped to 7.6%, but the stock market rallied anyway. Partly, this was because the stock market is a forward-looking indicator and employment is a backward-looking indicator. If the economy is near a turning point, the stock market will reflect it well before the employment report.

    But there is another explanation — one that is believed by most of the journalistic punditry — and that is that a bad employment report makes a stimulus package more likely. As Christina Romer (Chairwoman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors) said on Friday, “these numbers…reinforce the need for bold fiscal action.” What’s interesting about this is that there is absolutely no long-term economic evidence that higher government spending creates jobs.

    Academic economists will debate this until the end of time, but because they have their eyes glued to the computer screen, calculating multipliers (whether a dollar of government spending means more than a dollar of growth for the economy), they rarely look out the window. So let’s do it for them. The chart below compares the unemployment rate back to 1960 with federal government spending as a share of GDP.

    Clearly, the chart shows that more government spending does not create jobs. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. More government spending is correlated with higher levels of unemployment. In 1965, federal government spending was 17.2% of GDP and the unemployment rate was 4%. By 1982, spending had increased to 23.1% of GDP and unemployment had climbed to almost 11%.

    Government spending then fell from its early-1980s peak back to a new low of 18.4% of GDP in 2000, and the unemployment rate fell back to a low of 3.8% in 2000. Lately, due mostly to the profligate spending of the Bush Administration, government spending has increased to 20.7% of GDP. And guess what, the unemployment rate is up, not down. In fact, for the first time in over 25 years, the unemployment rate is higher today than it was at its peak during the last recession.

    And this is a very interesting development. During the quarter-century after 1982, when government spending was shrinking as a share of GDP and tax rates were cut, the unemployment rate experienced lower peaks and lower troughs during each business cycle. This was the opposite of the 1960s and 1970s, when government was growing and tax rates were rising. Then, each peak and each trough in the unemployment rate was higher in each successive business cycle.

    The reality is that every dollar the federal government spends must be borrowed or taxed from the private sector. And the more resources the government usurps from the private sector, the less job creation occurs.

    It is also true that most government spending is less efficient than private sector spending. While there may be a few areas that government spending makes sense — let’s say defense or some R&D — the vast majority of government spending has nothing to do with creating new wealth. It often competes against the private sector — the postal service and Amtrak — and much of it is pure re-distribution.

    So, this raises a serious question. Why is the government trying the same old spending stimulus that the evidence clearly shows does not work? President Carter spent billions of dollars on alternative energy plans, but unemployment rose anyway. If the U.S. and the new administration are serious about “change” and “getting rid of the old ways of doing things,” why not try something truly new?

    With nearly $1 trillion dollars to spend, the government could do some astounding and positive things. The U.S. could rewrite its tax code and move to a flat tax that would make the U.S. much more competitive in the global economy. Or, we could rethink and rework the entire entitlement system, so that it wouldn’t eat our budget and economy alive like Pac-Man in the next few decades. Charles Murray, in his 2006 book, In Our Hands, laid out a plan to give every American over 21 years old $10,000 per year for life in exchange for giving up Social Security, Medicare and every other welfare state program.

    We can see the problems that the welfare state is causing in just about every other major industrial country around the world that is ahead of the U.S. on the demographic aging scale. Why not change our course right now and implement true change so that we don’t end up like Japan or much of Western Europe? It’s a shame that the U.S. is not thinking along these lines.

    Yes, the political pressures of a rising unemployment rate make it difficult for politicians to think or plan for the long-term. But the U.S. has a historic opportunity today and there is still time to change course. Let’s deal with the immediate banking problems by getting rid of mark-to-market accounting and creating a bad bank or whatever, but let’s use our trillion dollar opportunity to make real changes that will provide a stronger economy for generations to come. Spending in the same old way as we have tried so many times in the past is a recipe for higher unemployment in future years, not lower.

    Claudia Chalfa

    This article claims that “Clearly, the chart shows that more government spending does not create jobs.”, and makes this point again and again. However, the article is very vague about what exactly entails “government spending”. Does this include military spending? What about tax cuts? Tax cuts cost the government money, too. Are you aware that after the senate Republicans reviewed the stimulus package last week, the amount of money in the bill rose because of the additional tax cuts they put into the package?

    I think this is very relevant to the topic at hand. Also, three months ago no one was debating the necessity of spending money to save the economy. John McCain would have introduced a very similar package had he won the election. The way this is playing out is typical politics: everyone is jockeying for position, trying to make it look like the other “side” is the bad guy, just in case this doesn’t work out. Then they can look back and say “We told you so”.

    The truth is, no one knows how this will play out or whether it will work or not. But regardless of what the politicians are saying, the economists all agree we have to do something.

    I looked at your profile, and saw that you are actually not a landscape architect, either, so I can understand why you aren’t too concerned with our interests.

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