By Mannix Porterfield
Editor’s note: The Register-Herald editorial board recently spoke with 3rd District Congressman Nick Rahall and focused on a number of current issues. Three stories from that meeting appear in today’s edition.
Bread lines snaking around streets of every major city in America?
Boarded up businesses, bank failures, two-bit robbers hitting on any place that might have a few dollars stashed away?
Great Depression II?
Perhaps that’s a little extreme, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., says, but without the stimulus package pushed by the Obama administration, the jobless rate would have skyrocketed.
“I firmly believe we were on the brink of a depression in this country,” the congressman said Friday in a meeting with The Register-Herald editorial board.
“We needed to take some action. It was the first new proposal of the new administration.”
Bailouts of Wall Street actually had begun in the Bush administration, he pointed out.
In spite of the administration’s push of the package as a means of lowering the unemployment rate, the rate actually has gone from around 8 percent to more than 10 percent.
“I strongly supported the stimulus package and I still do support that package,” Rahall said.
“I strongly believe the rise (in the jobless rate) would have been higher had it not been for the stimulus package. It was a brand new initiative to put his (President Obama’s) mark on trying to bring us back from the brink of a depression and putting America back in the most expeditious fashion he can.”
Rahall said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has translated into new jobs in West Virginia and some highway projects, among them another link in the Z-Way in Beckley.
Besides road construction, Rahall said, the idea also has opened the door to expand broadband in the state.
“That money is going to work for our people,” he said. “It’s not all here yet.”
What’s more, he said, every dollar is being carefully scrutinized and is available online for the voters to track.
“This money is transparent,” he said.
While Rahall said he doesn’t possess the economic prowess to say a depression would have been the alternative, he added, “I feared the repercussions of inaction.”
“I think it’s most frustrating when you look around the country and here at home in West Virginia, and see members of Congress who vehemently opposed this legislation, voted against it, spoke against it, and are the first ones at a ribbon-cutting ceremony when that money goes for a project in his or her district,” he added.
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