This is stimulus?

We support the provision in the economic stimulus bill that seeks to boost the U.S. economy by investing money in highways and bridges — all $30 billion of it.

That’s the amount included for highways and bridges in the $819 billion stimulus bill that
was passed by the House Wednesday, with the support of President Barack Obama.

Taxpayers have every right to wonder where the remaining $789 billion is going.

Some of that money will undoubtedly aid the economy, such as the $275 billion in tax cuts and the $40 billion for airport improvements, updating the electric grid and expanding broadband service. But for every stimulating provision, there are other measures authorizing highly dubious spending.

For example, there is $54 billion for federal programs that the Office of Management and Budget has called ineffective, including programs within the Economic Development Administration.

There are billions of dollars for research on alternative energy and global warming, that may have long-term value, but will do little to help jump start the economy now.

There are tens of billions of dollars for things like Medicaid, which may ultimately require an infusion of more federal cash, but, again, won’t provide any immediate economic stimulus.

There’s even $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. That ought to provide a great economic boost.

Furthermore, as the Associated Press reported Sunday, lobbyists are already contriving ways around the “no-earmarks” edict that Obama issued earlier this month. Rather than place things like money for sand for a New Jersey beach explicitly in the stimulus bill, they are seeking language to give money to states, cities and counties with broad guidelines to spend it as they see fit. If that happens, look for more projects that don’t pass the smell test when it comes to stimulating the economy, but do help some politicians’ favorite projects and groups.

Republicans offered their own stimulus plan Tuesday, one that relies entirely on tax cuts — from reducing the income tax to a freeze on capital gains and dividend taxes. No one expects that to go far in the Democratically controlled Congress.

But Democrats did agree to cut a few clearly unstimulating funding measures from the bill this week — $20 million for resodding the National Mall in Washington and $200 million for contraceptive services.

Members of both parties — and especially the president — should do more of that sort of cutting to focus the legislation on items that might actually stimulate the economy rather than allow the bill to become a giant slush fund.


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