ARTICLE

Harkin warns of depression, calls for bigger jobs package

Senator says focus should be on infrastructure, not tax cuts

Sen. Tom Harkin speaks during a roundtable discussion focusing on rebuilding Iowa's middle class on Monday, Aug. 22, 201
Sen. Tom Harkin speaks during a roundtable discussion focusing on rebuilding Iowa's middle class on Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, at The Arc of East Central Iowa in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

“Go bigger,” is Sen. Tom Harkin’s advice to President Obama on job creation.

Warning of the possibility of a depression, Harkin Thursday called for a job creation package bigger than Obama’s $447 billion proposal to jump start economic activity.

He advocated a package with “less emphasis on the tax cut side and more emphasis on the direct investment side on infrastructure.”

“That gives you the most bang for the buck and most immediate bang for the buck,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

Harkin wouldn’t rule out tax cuts to spur economic activity, “but that takes a long time … they have to work their way through the economy.”

Direct investment on infrastructure – roads, bridges, broadband, water treatment, for example – can put people back to work much faster than tax cuts, Harkins said.

“We have a lot of plans for a lot of infrastructure that could be started literally almost immediately, at least, this fall, this winter, next spring,” he said.

Despite some Democrats’ reluctance with parts of the president’s plan, Harkin called for moving the president’s proposal intact, rather than in the piecemeal fashion others have suggested.

“I believe this is something we have to do in a big way,” the Iowa Democrat said. “I think we should move one big package. Let’s move it and move it fast.”

He doesn’t want to see the country repeat the mistakes, including balancing budgets rather than putting people to work, which led to and prolonged the Great Depression of the 1930s.“We’re in a very tenuous situation in this country,” Harkin said. “We could be facing a long -- not recession -- depression.”