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Larsen focuses on economy at Town Talk
MARYSVILLE — More than 120 people packed the Ken Baxter Senior Community Center March 28 for a Marysville Town Talk meeting hosted by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.
“The purpose of the meeting today is for me to bring you up to date on what’s going on and for me to hear back from you about what’s going on,” Larsen said.
The congressman said he understood that Americans felt a lot of frustration and anger over the current economic situation and the government’s response to it.
“The frustration and anger are very real and, in many ways, very deserved,” Larsen said. “My caution is that anger won’t fix the economy but action will. One of the purposes of this meeting is for me to give you information so that you can be effectively angry.”
Larsen addressed a number of issues including the Recovery Act, the president’s housing plan, the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the federal budget and the AIG bonuses.
To give some local context as to why the economy is the number-one issue, Larsen explained that in Snohomish County the unemployment rate is now 9.9 percent. “A year ago February, the statewide unemployment rate was around 4.5 percent to 4.7 percent and below the national average. Today, the statewide unemployment rate is around 8.4 to 8.5 percent and above the national average.”
Larsen added that 38,000 Snohomish County residents are currently looking for work and that local food banks have seen a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in demand for services over the same time last year.
“That story is reflected all over the county which was the main driver behind the action to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or what folks call the stimulus package,” Larsen said.
The congressman explained the three goals of the Recovery Act are to save or create 3.5 million jobs, to build a foundation for future economic growth and to take care of those who are being hurt during the current recession.
After detailing a couple of examples of Recovery Act money coming to the 2nd Congressional District, Larsen moved on to talk about the president’s housing plan, which was announced March 4 and is designed to help 9 million Americans avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.
“In Snohomish County, one in every 576 homes is in foreclosure as of February according to RealtyTrac,” said Larsen. “Statewide, last May we were 49th out of 50 states in foreclosure rates. In the last four or five months, Washington state has moved up to 24th out of 50 states in foreclosure rates.”
Turning to the Troubled Assets Relief Program, Larsen said, “I continue to believe that my vote for the financial rescue package was the right vote and it is important that we all hold me, and the president, and the agencies accountable for where those dollars are going.”
Where $165 million of that money went — as bonuses to AIG executives — was the focus of much of the anger and frustration of those in attendance.
Responding to questions, Larsen said, “The issue of the bonuses is very frustrating to me. I will say this — Congress missed it, I missed it and other members of Congress missed it. So I’ll take the responsibility for that, but I will also tell you that I and others are trying to fix it.”
Before moving on to questions from the audience, Larsen concluded his presentation by saying, “I think that we will get many more things right on this than wrong, but I’m not going to tell you that we’re not going to get some things wrong. I’m also going to tell you that we are going to take action. We’re not going to sit on the sideline. At least the debate in Congress is about what action we are going to take. Democrats and Republicans may have differences on that, but the debate isn’t about whether we’re going to do something versus nothing — it’s about what we’re going to do.”