Stimulus signed, sealed. Now can it deliver?
Along with the vast majority of Americans, we have our fingers crossed today, hoping the economic stimulus bill signed by President Barack Obama Tuesday in Denver will have the desired effect.
There are reasons for both hope and skepticism. Here are some reasons to be skeptical.
• Very few people have actually read the nearly 1,100 pages of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including members of Congress who voted on it.
• There are fears the tax cuts for individuals are too small to do much good. They amount to $13 a week for average Americans until January, when they would fall to roughly $8 a week. That may buy a couple of beers at the local watering hole, but it won’t get our manufacturing sector back on track.
• The bill allows a substantial expansion of government-run health care programs, ostensibly only for a couple years to help those who have lost their jobs, but many fear the expansion could become permanent.
• The legislation begins to unravel the welfare reform of the 1990s by changing some of the eligibility requirements enacted then and offering financial bonuses to states that increase their welfare rolls.
• Finally, the bill will massively increase federal debt for generations to come.
On the plus side, there are these facts.
• The stimulus bill will create and protect jobs. Obama puts the figure at 3.5 million jobs over the next two years. Even some conservative economists who are critical of the bill say 2 million jobs could be created for the short term.
• There is money to extend unemployment benefits to those who lose their jobs.
• The legislation contains a substantial amount of cash to repair and improve the nation’s highways. Obama called it the largest federal investment in transportation “since President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system.”
• It includes funding to upgrade the country’s electric grid and transmission system. That is critical both to meeting growing demands for conventionally generated electricity, and for moving to green sources of electricity, such as wind and solar.
• The green component of the spending bill is particularly important to Colorado, which is at the forefront of alternative energy development, Gov. Bill Ritter said Tuesday. That’s a major reason Obama chose to sign the bill in Denver. The manager of a Colorado-based solar firm said the bill will help his business, and thousands like it across the country, hire more workers instead of lay them off.
• Also, the legislation includes money to help first-time home buyers purchase houses, to aid people buying new cars and to assist schools and colleges make infrastructure updates.
“Today does not mark the end of our economic troubles,” Obama said before signing the bill.
“But it does mark the beginning of the end — the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs; to provide relief for families worried they won’t be able to pay next month’s bills; and to set our economy on a firmer foundation.”
We sincerely hope he is right.