istock green collarThe House has just passed the $700 billion economic bailout package, clearing the way for the crisis-induced legislation to be signed by President Bush. But what happens next?

I’m no economist, but certainly this is a big, huge wake up call that the “same-old, same-old” is not working for American families. My point is that now, more than ever, we should be talking about how we’re going to stabilize our economy for real. Now, more than ever, we should do everything it takes to free every American family from the vise grip of fossil fuels and seize an enormous opportunity to invest in a stable and healthy clean energy economy.

Earlier this week, in a column titled “Green the Bailout,” Thomas Friedman summed it up perfectly (channeling Van Jones):

The point is, we don’t just need a bailout. We need a buildup. We need to get back to making stuff, based on real engineering not just financial engineering…

Indeed, when this bailout is over, we need the next president—this one is wasted—to launch an E.T., energy technology, revolution with the same urgency as this bailout. Otherwise, all we will have done is bought ourselves a respite, but not a future. The exciting thing about the energy technology revolution is that it spans the whole economy—from green-collar construction jobs to high-tech solar panel designing jobs. It could lift so many boats.

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  • The Center for American Progress is on the ball too (this today from their “In Progress” email):

    [This] is only the first step toward returning the US economy to a path of strength and stability … the American people must understand this is only a blood transfusion and a dose of painkiller to a trauma patient. If the credit crunch eases after Congress acts, then we have only bought the country time to more methodically consider what needs to be done to move beyond the precarious boom-and-bust economic policies enshrined in the conservative economic philosophy long dominant in Washington.

    The next president and Congress will need to more directly stabilize the housing situation for tens of millions of American families, complemented by smarter targeted investments in our nation’s infrastructure and engines of innovation, and by more responsible tax policy and financial regulation. Any sensible policy going forward should include a number of key elements.

    First of all, we need to slow foreclosures and modify and refinance loans wherever possible. As CAP has argued for nearly a year, without addressing the underlying threat to housing values, neighborhood stability, and family wealth, no proposal will turn the economic tide.

    We must also invest in an accelerated shift over to an energy-efficient economy. This will create new green jobs, and will reduce wasted expenditures on foreign oil that risk our national security. Other investments include health care, education, and restoring sound fiscal policy, as detailed in the Center’s Progressive Growth series of economic policy recommendations.

    CAP has proposed a Green Recovery program that would improve the economy over the next two years with rapid investments in energy transformation that would create approximately 2 million new jobs.

    To their credit, some lawmakers (including Washington’s own Jay Inslee) aren’t letting the bailout slip by without looking at the role that a new energy economy can—and must—play in charting the country’s economic future. (It’s a bit concerning to me, however, that Barack Obama when pressed in last week’s debate, pointed to energy initiatives in his platform as the first place he might need to cut back due to the bailout deficit if he becomes president.)

    But the “sweetened up” bailout legislation did wind up including some important extensions of renewable energy tax incentives, keeping renewable energy companies in business.

    This is a baby step. If leaders really care about the struggling middle class, they’ll follow up the bailout by taking bigger steps to take control of our energy economy, putting Americans to work, sparking innovation and efficiency, and, in the bargain, ensuring a healthier, safer climate.