Steamboat Springs The latest unemployment figures have just been released. Washington has poured billions into stimulus packages. Recall that on Feb. 7 of last year, John Salazar “hailed” the stimulus package, saying, “I hope the president signs this bill to send the message that help is on the way.” “Trust us,” we have been told. “Help is on the way. We know how to create good green jobs. Help is on the way.”
So, what was the news today? Roll the drums, sound the trumpets. Well, the news is not good. Help has not arrived. Unemployment has now reached 10.2 percent, the highest since April 1983. Unemployment among our veterans is 11.3 percent. Those of you who no longer have jobs in our timber, oil, natural gas, and coal industries, take heart. Green jobs are coming — someday. Help is on the way. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has announced he will encourage Congress to extend unemployment benefits, again.
The answer to record-breaking unemployment is not another stimulus package, and it is not spending more money on unemployment benefits. The answer to unemployment is to turn loose the private sector right here in Western Colorado to create jobs. As recently as 2008, almost 78 percent of the jobs in Colorado were in the private sector. If I were your congressman today, I would go to Obama and get an exception to his roadless initiative so we can log the 2 million acres of dead trees we have north of Interstate 70. He already has granted that exception for Alaska. Instead of asking for an exception, Salazar applauded Obama’s return to roadless mismanagement of our Bureau of Land Management and National Forest lands.
We need a congressman who will say, “Mr. President, the trees are dead. Let us create jobs cutting logging roads, cutting dead trees, hauling dead trees, milling dead trees, selling lumber and hauling lumber.” The trees are dead. The question is, do we create jobs cutting them, or do we let them fall on hundreds of miles of high power lines? Do we let them fall on and kill hikers and skiers and snow machine drivers, all of whom spend money enjoying these sports? Or do we just let them burn? How long do we watch jobs in our coal, oil and natural gas industries leave Western Colorado, taking with them the motels and housing, and supermarkets and restaurants that supported those jobs?
We need a congressman with the courage to stand up for working people over dead trees, smelts and pale sturgeons. Instead, we have a congressman who on May 15, 2007, celebrated protecting “sensitive and pristine” areas in the Roan Plateau. And then, he had the incredible gall to add, “Postponing development of this one area will not endanger our economic or energy future.” Tell that to the miners on unemployment today, Mr. Salazar. We need a congressman with the courage to stand up for working people who have the skills and the determination to feed their families. Instead, just three weeks ago, Salazar introduced a bill to expand the size of wilderness areas in Western Colorado. Wake up, John. We don’t need more wilderness areas right now; we need jobs.
I am Bob McConnell, the Cowboy Colonel. Nobody owns me, and they never will. I will stand up for you, the people of Western Colorado.
Steamboat Springs resident Bob McConnell is a Republican running for the 3rd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.