Cantwell: Country can’t grow if it only cuts

Source: Seattle PI

The United States can’t just cut its way out of the Great Recession, but must “make the investments that will create jobs,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., argued in Seattle on Monday.

“We have to have Gross Domestic Product growth and GDP growth is about jobs and the economy,” Cantwell said, responding to news of plummeting markets on Wall Street.

The senator delivered an unflattering assessment of Standard & Poor’s, which triggered the latest economic turmoil on Friday when it downgraded the U.S. credit rating.  The same rating agency “missed the entire housing derivative market,” that triggered Wall Street’s near-collapse in 2008, Cantwell argued.

Cantwell is a Democratic senator up for reelection in 2012.  She has not of late demonstrated lung power on the Senate floor, or engaged in the venal partisan blame games that characterized Congress’ recent debt limit standoff.

On Monday, she was applauding a $25 million, five-yearU.S. Department of Agriculture grant designed to put thousands of acres of largely-marginal Eastern Washington farmland to work growing a product called “camelina sativa.”

The camelina will be used as feedstock for sustainable, low-carbon jet fuels.  Already this summer, Boeing flew jets to the Paris Air Show using camelina, which is manufactured into a product with a molecular structure identical to that of petroleum jet fuel.

“‘Green’ jet fuel means job growth across Washington state,” Cantwell said.  “The jet fuel industry in bio-fuels is ready to take flight.”   The new product means commercial aircraft will “leave a lower carbon footprint” and lower oil imports, she added.

But if bio-fuels are taking off, the stock markets have been crashing — and Congress’ performance during the debt ceiling debate has given lawmakers an 82 percent negative rating according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Asked about President Obama’s performance, and Congress’ record-low ratings, Cantwell pivoted back to camelina sativa.  “My focus has been on things like this, small business access to capital,” she said.  “What’s important for me right now is to focus on jobs and the economy.”

In promoting growth, the country must “bend the cost curve of government while we continue to make the investments that will create jobs,” Cantwell argued.

She noted, too, that the debt crisis has crossed the pond, with multiple crises buffeting the economies of Greece and Portugal, and lately Italy.  “This is a global problem we are not out of yet,” she said.

And, like the 1929 stock market crash, the housing finance crisis and near-collapse of big banks — and actual collapse of Seattle-based Washington Mutual — will be felt for years to come.

“I know 2008 had had an unbelievable impact on our economy,” Cantwell said.

The impact on politics has yet to be measured.  The convention wisdom, until recently, is that President Obama’s presence on top of the ticket will boost Cantwell’s already-bright prospects of reelection in Washington.

With President Carter atop the Democrats’ ticket in 1980, however, veteran Democratic Senators Warren Magnuson in Washington and Frank Church in Idaho went down to defeat, and Republicans won the governorship of Washington.  They haven’t taken it since.