June 19, 2011; Source: Newsweek | Dear President Clinton: Thank you very much for your excellent list of common sense prescriptions for lifting the U.S. economy out of the doldrums. Don’t take that as meaning that NPQ Newswire readers will automatically agree with all 14 items on your checklist. As you said, you could write about some of these issues “until the cows come home,” such as cash for start-ups, investments in companies that make things (as in manufacturing things), and lots of attention to green techology.
On the somewhat more controversial side might be your enthusiasm for cutting corporate taxes and your support for loan guarantees for the already highly subsidized lenders who don’t seem to be all that interested in moving their loan capital into job-generating activities. But where did you include the nonprofit sector in these prescriptions?
Somehow, the notion that nonprofits might be the nation’s best promoters of economic growth and, if recipients of federal support, generators of economic activity in their own right, just eludes so many pundits. Implicitly, you get it, as you reference the importance of the Clinton Global Initiative, one of your philanthropic ventures, in generating and highlighting good ideas.
Please remember to be open to the nonprofit sector. When big banks were hiding their capital under their mattresses, it was nonprofit community development financial institutions that continued to lend — with nothing like the subsidies that the government offered Wall Street. As for-profit housing developers retrenched, it has been nonprofit community developers that have tried to keep their footholds in developing affordable housing and attacking the inventory of properties owned by banks as a result of subprime (and now conventional) mortgage foreclosures.
You call for state-by-state solutions, but so far, we are seeing mostly state-by-state budget eviscerations that have forced nonprofits to step to the plate to try to meet expanding social safety net needs. You called on the federal government to speed up the approval process for development projects, but when it came to the stimulus, it was the creativity and doggedness of nonprofits that frequently made projects move despite the lassitude of state and federal authorities. You titled your Newsweek article, “It’s Still the Economy, Stupid.” We’d add the subtitle, “It’s the Nonprofit Sector with Ideas and Commitment” to get this nation moving. See you at the next CGI America gathering!—Rick Cohen