Oregonians should demand that their elected leaders in Portland, Salem or Washington, D.C., debate the monumental federal stimulus program briefly and with one primary goal in mind: putting Americans back to work.

Turning the stimulus into anything else, including efforts to shape special-interest agendas, would be plain wrong.

By some accounts, Oregon may be eligible for $2 billion from the proposed $825 billion national plan that this week may pass the U.S. House of Representatives. This aid could not come at a better time. The state's unemployment rate of 9 percent is higher than the U.S. average, and each day the number of out-of-work Oregonians swells.

Granted, the investment of federal dollars should have a longer-term goal in mind than simply creating short-lived jobs. That's why we support investing in programs that train people who have lost their jobs, that pay teachers whose positions are in jeopardy and that provide business tax credits to spur equipment purchases.

But the immediate measurement to be used in investing the stimulus money is quite simple:

• How many jobs are created.

• How quickly these jobs are created.

• The diversity of workers and employment sectors put back to work.

• And the longevity of employment created.

There are many places these dollars and new employees can be put to work: rebuilding transportation or power transmission infrastructure; improving community transit; sewer or water systems; and fixing aging schools and classrooms.

But whatever the purpose or location, the essential outcome must be jobs.

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