I want to be positive about our countryís political system. But try as I might, I just canít.
The latest of course is the $819 billion stimulus packaged which has made its way past the House and currently up for debate before the Senate. In theory, the idea of pumping a boat load of money into our economy to stimulate spending and job growth sounds good.
In fact, the economist in me thinks it sounds great. In order to get out of a depression, you have to stimulate growth. How do you do that? Spend. And the stimulus plan includes around $550 billion in spending.
On the surface it looks good: $142 billion earmarked for education, $111 billion for healthcare, $90 billion for infrastructure, $54 billion for energy, $13 for housing, etc.
But the devil, as they say, is in the details. There is a difference between spending money where it is needed and quite another to spend it on, say, new sod for the Washington Mall. Or a new Health and Human Services building with a more than $500 million price tag, not to mention more than $200 million in furniture and fittings to go into it. Then there is rekindling an energy project in Illinois previously deemed inefficient. And do we need to spend $335 million on educating people about STDs? That sounds like it would buy a lot of condoms to me.
Even the people I would expect to be excited about the plan are not. Our local schools are sweating out the budget process, not knowing just how devastating state aid cuts will be. They could certainly use an injection of federal funds to help pick up the slack, so it doesnít all fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers.
But with the planís education dollars earmarked for certain categories, like building projects, we may be out of luck. As I was told by one local superintendent earlier this week, most of the school budget is spent on salaries and supplies. Thatís where we need the help, not building.
It doesnít surprise me that people are up at arms. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are reporting a flood of calls from taxpayers voicing their concerns. And Iím glad. Iím glad Iím not the only one crying foul.
If you expect me to swallow this whole hog (and yes, it does smell of pork to me) youíre going to have to go about it a bit differently. Tell me how many jobs will be created and what industries will be supported with each of these tremendous outlays of money. Tell me how communities, businesses and homes will be saved or how our children will be better prepared for the future as a result. Make me a believer.
But right now, I just feel like youíre trying to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge.