We need a government that works

January 27, 2010
Op-Ed

January 27th, 2010

From The Hill

A year ago, the American people turned to a new presidentand the promise of hope, much as flowers turn to the sun.

But hope is only truly meaningful when it is rooted inreality.  It is time for a reality check.

As the President prepares to deliver his State of the UnionAddress, we need not just optimism, but a basis for that optimism and a beliefthat it will translate into action.

Travel around this wonderful country, as I have beenfortunate to do, and Americans speak with one voice about our hopes and fears.

We want jobs - meaningful work - that will allow us toprovide for our family.

We want a home - safe and secure - that will allow us toraise our family.

We want our children to have a better life than we had.

We want a future that doesn't saddle us with debt.

And Americans want a government that works. We don't wantgovernment to abandon us.  We don't want government to do everything forus.  We want government to work, and give us a fair chance to do forourselves.

In the past year, the underpinnings of our nation havecrumbled and fallen away and it is as though we're standing on a glass floorwith a million cracks in it and nothing beneath.

The President has done well to prevent a complete economiccatastrophe and I believe this Congress has acted with unprecedented speed andbreadth to enact legislation that will bring back economic growth and promoteinnovative new industries.

But we cannot forget the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.when he described "the fierce urgency of now."

I'm privileged to represent the restlessly creative Silicon Valley, and the phone calls coming into my officeare from people who say, "I'm down to my last few dollars.  I need helpnow."

So, I look to the President to deliver the word that we hearthat message, that we heed it and that we are prepared to act -- both the WhiteHouse and Congress - to provide immediate aid and comfort.

There are some things we can do right now.

Extend bankruptcy relief to homeowners facingforeclosure.  Allow them to restructure their debts, remain in their homesand give them a fighting chance to work their way out of their financial ditch.

Get the banks to loan to small businesses, which are thebackbone of our national economy.

All over the country, school districts, community colleges,cities, counties and public agencies, such as transit districts, have lostmillions of dollars due to the collapse of such once-bedrock institutions asLehman Brothers.

These were sound, conservative investments of public funds,not risky flights of profit-hungry fancy and these are troubled assets just assurely as any bank's.

Extend the TARP funds to these public entities.  Amillion dollars is small change in Washington,but to a school district or a county government, it is the difference betweenlayoffs or saving some jobs and creating others.

When Franklin Roosevelt took office in the depths of theDepression and announced his 100-day plan for turning the nation around, he wasasked what he would do if his plan didn't work.  He famously replied,"Then we'll try something else."

Why not borrow an idea from FDR?  Put federal dollarsdirectly into the pockets of American workers and rebuild our county and stateparks and repair our infrastructure.

Make the commitment to today and I can guarantee you that inCalifornia and SiliconValley we are committed to tomorrow's growth.

Californiais poised to lead the nation in the design and construction of the firstAmerican high-speed rail network.  High-speed rail will revolutionize thiscountry the way the National Highway System did in the 1950s and 1960s.

Federal dollars to this project will mean an entirely newAmerican industry, American-made products and new jobs that will buildeverything from the wheels and the rails down to the tiniest bolt.  And itwill draw the best of our young minds to a transformative industry.

Through the stimulus package and the American Clean Energyand Security Act, billions of dollars in federal money will create a million newstartups in science, technology and the next, new, previously unimagined thing.

In my home district, this is our everyday life and dozens ofburgeoning companies at the cutting edge of green and clean technology arepoised for an explosion in innovation and healthy, sustainable economic growth.

There is reason for hope.  The foundation has been laidfor the next American Renaissance in innovation and invention. This is ourinnate optimism - uniquely American and distinctively on display in Silicon Valley.

The President captured that spirit a year ago.  He isgifted in his ability to imbue all of us with that spirit and he has proven,through his unprecedented campaign skills at grass-roots communication, that heunderstands the networks that interlace our lives.

He must put those talents to use again.  He can andmust do it with the promise not just of a better tomorrow, but a better today.