Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thoughts on the Stimulus Package

With all the talk of the stimulus package, it's hard to get a handle on it because you're not quite sure who's telling the truth. Now that the text of the bill and the numbers are trickling out, it's time to take an assessment of just what's in there.

- There was hundreds of millions of dollars set aside for contraceptives, according to George Stephanopoulos's interview with Nancy Pelosi on January 25th, and an additional $335-$400 million for battling STDs. There's something being stimulated with these proposals, but I don't think it's the economy...

- $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. Because the new global economy revolves around bad performance art and crappy sculptures using Barbie doll torsos.

- $4.19 billion for "neighborhood stabilization activities." Whatever they are. What makes this seemingly innocuous expenditure a bit more unsettling is that ACORN, a non-profit organization known in recent years for being found guilty of voter fraud, may be eligible for some of that money. Let this be a lesson to you, kids. If you help the Democrats cheat to win, you'll get free money!

- $6 billion for high speed Internet access for rural and underserved areas. Great. Now, Cletus won't have to surf for porn on dial-up.

- $6 billion to weatherize moderate-income homes. Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I don't own a house, but there's a bit of a leap from "winterizing a house" and "economic prosperity."

- $31 billion for construction and repair of federal buildings. Of course, if people in Washington actually did anything, I'd go for it.

- $10 billion for rail and mass transit. One, I'm guessing the trains won't run on coal, since Obama has said he wants to put them out of business. Two, as someone who has travelled on mass transit to get to work, all the spending in the world won't make it any less creepy.

- $10 billion for "science facilities", $30 billion for "transportation projects", $19 billion for "water projects", $87 billion for "help to states with Medicaid", and other big dollar amounts for non-specific projects. In Washingtonese, that means "a big pile of money that no one guards."

- $4.1 billion for "preventative care." When you compare it to the money spent to battle STDs, it seems ironic that the plan spends so little on this, but so much on diseases that mostly would have been prevented with a little preventative care.

If you want to see more, Glenn Beck's website has a nice breakdown, and I used it for my blog post on the matter. If you want to check it out, it's at

I do have to admit there are some items in the stimulus package that do relate at least somewhat to economic growth, both in the short term and the long term. That doesn't salvage the entire package, however. The fact that we're even having to see what absurd things are being proposed for funding with the stimulus package should tell you that we're being sold a bill of not-so-good goods under the guise of "helping the economy." You don't help the economy by spending money on condoms and the Clap.

The devil in the details is that many of these expenditures appear to be short-term, and for the sake of our national pocketbook, I hope they are. But I can't help but remember that government isn't in the problem-solving game. Most of the time, government involvement in a problem causes the problem to get bigger and more expensive. After all, once the problem is solved, you can't get more government money to solve it. That's one reason the Big Dig in Boston isn't done yet.

So, count me as one of the cynics when it comes to the stimulus package. For the few good things it might be able to do, it's not worth the price for all the nonsensical things it will definitely do if passed.

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