Significant economic problems are inevitable in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks, Sen. Charles E. Schumer warned Wednesday in Buffalo during a session that was part pep rally and part preparation for tough times ahead.
"The nation has always gone into deficit spending during wartime," Schumer said following remarks in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. "I don't see how we avoid it."
He said the federal government must "prime the pump" of the nation's economy to assist threatened industries such as aviation and insurance, even to the point of deficit spending.
A wartime footing will mean increased government involvement in a number of areas, Schumer told about 150 residents and community leaders attending the Albright-Knox session.
"Washington is not going to let the economy go down the drain," he said, explaining that companies such as US Airways are in "real trouble" from the air travel slump caused by the attacks.
He said that the nation's best interest will not be served by air service sliced in half, and that federal resources must be committed to prevent it.
"There's real trouble in the insurance industry," he added. "We will come in and either provide some kind of federal insurance or provide backup to the insurance industry so they don't go under in terms of claims."
While congressional leaders were debating how to save a budget surplus just over a week ago, Schumer said the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon have now created a different era. Federal lawmakers now face entirely new and different priorities, he said.
One area sure to draw new attention is border issues with Canada. In response to a question posed by Bruce L. Fisher, chief of staff to County Executive Joel A. Giambra, Schumer said new resources must be committed to making the border work.
"It's going to take more people at the border so people aren't going to have to wait four and five hours to cross," he said. "These are the kinds of things we ignored before, but we can't ignore them any longer.
"We're not going to let them shut down or impede our border," he added. "That will take resources, and we will provide those resources."
That drew praise from Mark Romoff, Canadian consul general in Buffalo, who said that Canada considers the United States its best friend, ally and partner, and that an attack on the United States is considered an attack on Canada.
"If there's a silver lining to this, it has produced a situation where there is greater cooperation and resolve between our (border) agencies," Romoff said.
But the senator, who made Buffalo his first stop in a series of statewide appearances, used the occasion to begin preparing New Yorkers for a long anti-terrorism effort.
He said a comprehensive response that includes military action, diplomacy and economic sanctions is necessary on an international basis. Six people died in the 1993 trade center attack, and close to 6,000 were killed in last week's incidents, but Schumer said 6 million could be killed in new terrorism committed with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
"If we don't act, we will pay an even larger price than we paid last Tuesday," he said.
In the hours after the attack, Schumer said President Bush told him in a call from Air Force One that his presidency ultimately would be judged his response.
"If I have one message, it's that we'll win this," Schumer said. "But only if we have the resolve, and only if we do it carefully and smartly. It will take united action from the whole world, and I think the president is prepared to do that."