Welcome 111th Congress: Get to Work!

The 111th Congress officially convened on January 3, but since that was a Saturday, they officially got to work today. Rather than waste time declaring national observances, I want them to hit the ground running, so I’ve prepared a to do list of things for them to accomplish in 2009:

  • Fix the economy
  • Fix the environment
  • Fix healthcare
  • Fix retirement

It’s a short list, so totally doable, right? Okay, maybe I should get a wee bit more specific in my requests.

Pass an Infrastructure Funding Package
As I’ve said before, I believe an infrastructure funding package would be a much better form of economic stimulus than tax cuts or rebate checks. Infrastructure spending creates jobs, which encourages spending, which in turn creates tax revenue (as does increased employment.) We have to fix our roads and bridges anyway, so why not make it a two-fer?

Fortunately, Obama’s economic plan leans heavily on infrastructure projects, especially turn-key projects, like all of those that were recently halted in California because the state is low on money. Congress, start building the package now so you can pass it on January 20 and Obama can sign it right away.

Create Enforceable Financial Regulations
Instead of driving used children’s clothing stores about of business, focus on creating solid financial regulations for lending, investing, and insuring all manner of financial products, then give the SEC the funding and teeth to actually enforce them. Maybe that would get the banks to finally start lending to consumers and small businesses again.

Fund R&D for Alternative Energy
Gas is briefly cheap, but it won’t stay there. Unfortunately, the market has been slow to develop alternatives. In this case, Congress may have to step in to speed up the process by providing grants and research funding towards sources of fuel and energy that don’t rely on oil, coal, and corn ethanol.

Pass Solid Environmental Regulations and Improve Enforcement
Rather than let lobbyists water down attempts at meaningful environmental regulations, pass some rules with real teeth, then let the EPA enforce them. It’s their job, and they’re not doing it right now. If you have to, increase their funding so they can actually do the job.

Pass Health Insurance Reform
You’ve started to do it already, but you really need to pass regulations that would limit the ability of healthcare insurers to kick out patients who require expensive care. You also need to limit their ability to determine whether a procedure is necessary. No one should die because their health insurance company doesn’t want to pay for the treatment.

Eliminate the Roth IRA Income Cap Permanently
In 2011, there is no income cap for contributions, but then it falls all the way back down in 2012. Even if you don’t make the associated Bush tax cuts permanent, remove this cap permanently. There’s no reason for the income limit on this fantastic retirement vehicle, so this year you should remove the limit permanently.

This isn’t a simple list, but it’s necessary to get our country on the right track again. What do you want Congress to accomplish this year? List your to dos in the comments.

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