What the Recovery Act Means to You: My Talk With White House Officials

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There is no harm in repeating a good thing - Plato

I saw someone tweet that quote over on Twitter as I flew back from DC to Los Angeles, struggling with how to tell you about my White House visit. That quote fits what happened rather well.

Why am I struggling? Because this time around it wasn't all sunshine and rose gardens and the adrenaline rush of being in the West Wing for the first time, getting to tell key people about all the important work women online are doing and why they are so awesome.

This time it was tough. We talked about the Recovery Act, the state of this country's economy and my role in blogging to make a difference.

You see, I was invited to an intimate round-table discussion with Chief Economist and Economic Policy Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, Jared Bernstein, and a small group of "progressive" bloggers. There were about 10 of us around the table, and while Berstein got to give us the highlights on the one-year anniversary of the Recovery Act, we got to ask questions and engage in discussion.

Blogger Roundtable White House by JohnDC

Mind you, I came to represent BlogHer, which is omni-partisan, so despite my personal progressive blogging for BlogHer, I was there to make sure the diversity of views of the *entire* community were brought to the forefront during this opportunity.

But as it turns out, I didn't have to try too hard to make sure your voice was heard ... because the nature of Berstein's talking points and our discussion made it very easy for me to speak what was on my mind and what I know has been on yours: jobs, unemployment, and when we will finally start feeling the effects of the Recovery Act at home.

For all the good the Recovery Act appears to be doing, I explained to Bernstein that frequent blogging on our part doesn't resonate very well when our commenters and audience are still unemployed: fearing lay-offs, taking pay cuts and struggling with paying bills.

He told me that if the numbers are to be believed, about two million people are on the job today who wouldn't be otherwise, thanks to the Recovery Act ... and above all, this process takes time.

It's just that "this needs time" is a really hard message to take when not 24 hours before I walked in the West Wing door, a good friend sent me a message saying she had been laid off, an all-too-common tale these days.

Oliver Willis was at the meeting, and he came away with the highlights on all the great things the Recovery Act is doing:

  • Bernstein reiterated to us just how close to the edge the economy was when they took over. Again, the act rescued us from Bush-era policy ruin. Bernstein specifically noted that supply-side economics has been a “huge bust.” You wouldn’t know this based on how often Fox News has Art Laffer on to sell snake oil, but you wouldn’t expect any better.
  • He also noted, as has been said elsewhere, that we’re in year two of the plan, which is the “Recover” phase (which follows last year’s “Rescue” and precedes the “Reinvest” phase, which is still in progress). We’ve gone from a contracting economy to one that’s expanding –- but  the high unemployment rate is “not acceptable.”

And they are, in fact, great ... but Willis, John Avarious and I also walked away feeling the message we were supposed to leave with was this: It's our duty as bloggers to help sell YOU on the stimulus. Bernstein wanted to know where the positive blog posts were on the great things the Recovery Act was doing. 

This is where I let out a heavy sigh and curse the DC machine that seems to have sucked the souls of many.

How am I supposed to blog these awesome stats (and there really are some good ones) on how we're on the road to recovery when all I have are "seed" projects that don't kick in for years and years and things that haven't, necessarily, trickled down to my family, your family, our lives?

Atrois felt my pain at the table too: "Anyway, they're trying to turn around public opinion on the stimulus bill. They see it as a good thing, which obviously it was, and think the public should see it that way too. The thing is, while the stimulus was a very good thing relative to a world without a stimulus, it's hard to do much happy talk about it when their own estimates have unemployment remaining very high for quite some time. And they're not willing to make the case that they'd like to do, or would've liked to do, more but political reality wouldn't let them."

But in a room full of partisan progressive bloggers, the messaging about how to highlight and even promote the Recovery Act was less relevant to me and my work for this community here on BlogHer.

On my way out, I dropped the ideas that Momocrat Cynematic posted and mentioned if Year Two of the Recovery Act is when the middle class should really start feeling it -- I want to hear ALL ABOUT IT from the White House in terms that mean something to you and me. Not just stats. Not just charts. But real-life examples. As Bernstein told us, it's about the teacher whose job was saved -- who has 20 instead of 40 kids in her class -- because of what the Recovery Act has done.

And frankly, I don't want to hear about that teacher from Bernstein. Or from any other administration official or talking head. I want to hear it from the teachers themselves. From the parents. From the kids no longer sharing a textbook. From YOU.

As BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page and I shared with the White House in December, women trust each other and their friends way more than they trust any corporation or government institution.

As a progressive blogger, what I heard in that meeting is true -- the Recovery Act is working. It's working so well Republicans who voted against much of it are now showing up to ribbon-cutting ceremonies and touting the checks and jobs that are slowly rolling in.

The question now becomes ... when will you feel like the stimulus has helped you and your family? Bernstein says it's coming, and the vice president says the "best is yet to come." But how long can you and your bills wait? What do you want to see done NOW?

Contributing Editor Erin Kotecki Vest also blogs at Queen of Spain blog and did her best to sneak out tweets from the West Wing from @queenofspain. She's upset, again, she did not see the President's dog.

Politics & News Contributing Editor Erin Kotecki Vest

Image Credit: JohnDC

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