Senators look for economic fix

U.S. Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Byron Dorgan favor the creation of a financial safety net.

Betsy Graca

A struggling economy has forced many middle-class Americans to make tough financial decisions requiring leaps of faith. Two Midwest senators want to create a financial safety net in case of a fall.

With apprehension about the looming Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines merger, two Democratic senators led a hearing Wednesday concerning the creation of that net for both Minnesotans and Americans.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., addressed the current housing crisis, the extension of unemployment benefits, investment in renewable energy and infrastructure.

The hearing, titled “Strengthening America’s Economy – Solutions that Work for Middle Class Families,” featured four experts consulting the senators on different economic aspects.

Klobuchar said the recent economic stimulus package addressed short-term solutions, but the hearing focused on long-term economic solutions and initiatives the senators thought the package lacked.

“I think it was the right thing to do, psychologically,” Dorgan said. “I don’t think the stimulus package was a remedy for the current economic ailment.”

Klobuchar said protecting Minnesota’s interests during the merger is important. Chief concerns were the possibilities of further weakening an already suffering economy, the loss of jobs and damaging the local transportation system.

Addressing Northwest, Klobuchar said, “We gave you money when you needed it. And now we’re going to make sure you’re not going to rip us off.”

To stimulate job creation and future development, the senators encouraged the idea of ensuring continuing tax credits for renewable energy.

David Foster, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance and featured guest at the hearing, said the United States could have created 1.4 million jobs had it invested in renewable energy resources seven or eight years ago.

With an unstable job market, the senators were disappointed unemployment insurance had not been included in the stimulus package.

Tom Stinson, Minnesota state economist, said during previous times of economic downturn benefits for the unemployed were included in successful stimulus packages.

Jacob Hacker, Yale political science professor and featured guest, said Americans are concerned about economic security for good reason. He said about one-third of unemployed workers don’t receive assistance.

“Over the last generation, we’ve seen a shift in economic risk from the broad shoulders of the government, corporations on to the fragile finances of American families,” he said.