When did this election become all about a plumber from Holland, Ohio? To hear John McCain tell it, America is obsessed with the tax status of Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber.
But I think people in Youngstown and Ohio can see through this charade, to set aside the phony rhetoric and tax fear-mongering to deflect attention away from the myriad economic issues that we are facing. Of course taxes are important — that’s why Barack Obama is proposing to cut taxes on 95 percent of working families, including Joe the Plumber. I fully appreciate, as I am sure Sen. Obama does, the necessity of ensuring that our tax policies do not discourage business investment in tough economic times.
But taxes are not the only concern for the next president. An international credit and housing crisis has been dumped on the back of Ohio’s already troubled economy. The next president is going to need a clear, steady vision for how to resuscitate and revive our economy, both for next year and the next generation.
Barack Obama has the vision we need.
Sen. Obama has presented detailed, pragmatic and powerful plans to revitalize the economies of older core cities in Ohio and the broader region. John McCain’s plans, such as they are, are misguided. He does not address the unique challenges facing cities like Youngstown, Canton or Dayton.
Global economic forces have severely damaged our cities and towns. Ohio has lost nearly 250,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000. Our city has felt the downturn particularly hard, with about 28 percent of Youngstown’s manufacturing jobs leaving since 2000.
We need jobs tied to economic engines. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have a plan to get Americans back to work at good-paying, steady jobs. There is nothing more important to the economic recovery of Youngstown and Ohio and the nation than making sure anyone who wants a job can get one.
By committing to rebuild America’s roads, transit system, bridges and schools, the Obama-Biden emergency stimulus plan would get one million Americans back to work.
By investing $25 billion immediately in a Jobs and Growth Fund, the Obama administration would make sure that much-needed infrastructure projects remain on track.
This immediate and aggressive investment in our national infrastructure will provide three important benefits: we will create new jobs to help revive our economy in the short-term, we will strengthen our international economic competitiveness by giving corporations a strong infrastructure to build on here in America, and we will improve our environment by making our schools and infrastructure more energy-efficient and less polluting. The city of Youngstown has a successful track record in revitalizing older industrial infrastructure. Our efforts would be greatly expanded with additional targeted investment in these areas.
The top priority of an Obama-Biden administration will be to get our economy moving again, not only on Wall Street but on Market Street, Federal Street, Belmont, Oak Street, and Salt Springs Road, here in Youngstown. Barack Obama knows that the single greatest strength of our nation is our creativity and our determination in the face of adversity.
Sen. Obama promises to invest in the skills and ingenuity of Americans by promoting “innovation clusters” — regional centers of innovation and next-generation industries. This is a concept on which I am working closely with Congressman Tim Ryan. To his great credit, Sen. Obama is building off a policy that has already shown tremendous success in cities across the country.
I have seen that success up-close. The Youngstown Business Incubator has helped turn our city into a national hub for business-to-business software. Companies within the Youngstown Business Incubator have been awarded 16 intellectual property patents, developed 19 new commercial software applications, created over 170 new jobs, recruited customers in 44 foreign countries, translated their products and support materials into eight languages, and won the prestigious Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. We are already training entrepreneurs and other young people to get them good jobs in this emerging industry.
I can cite examples of other companies in Youngstown such as FireLine, City Machine Technologies, M-7 Technologies, Brilex, Exal and Northern States Metals, just to name a few, that have figured out how to excel in a global market place. These are models of “next generation” companies that will help to define the economy of the City of Youngstown, the Mahoning Valley, and even the state of Ohio. These are the type of companies, amongst others, that we will continue to work with to help ensure they benefit from an Obama/Biden economic policy.
Steady and sure hand
None of us knows how long this economic crisis will last. But we do know we need a steady and sure hand to guide us through to the other side. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have shown they have the commitment and the cutting-edge policies to help Ohio and the nation emerge from this crisis not only intact, but more stable and competitive.
X Jay Williams is in his first term as mayor of Youngstown.