Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Stimulus Response

Andres Bocanegra at The San Antonio Conservative has a post up listing so-called wasteful spending in the Stimulus Bill that has been identified by Republicans. He adds his comments to each one in italics and I thought I would then add my responses in bold.

• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient. why restart a program we know is inefficient?
We know no such thing. We only know that the Republican administration, which was ideologically opposed to the program, pulled the plug. Democrats, who are now in charge at the Department of Energy, want to restore funding. But does it belong in the stimulus bill?
Well, $2 billion in government spending will create a log of jobs and business opportunities around the coal plant in Illinois.
One of the main reasons that we in San Antonio are not suffering as much as the rest of the country is the $2 billion in government spending associated with the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) out at Fort Sam Houston. That money, spread out over several years, is creating thousands of jobs and is providing a nice cushion for San Antonio during the economic downturn.

• A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film. so the support from Hollywood helped out for them … I suppose
Tax breaks provide the least “bang for the buck” compared to direct government spending, and yet the stimulus bill is filled with tax cuts because they are also the quickest way to get money back into the economy. Lots and lots of tax breaks in the stimulus bill, many at the insistence of Republicans who are now opposed to the package at all cost. The Republicans have singled out “Hollywood” here because it is a favorite boogeyman of the far right. But the movie industry is a huge economic generator. Aside from the jobs it creates directly through the production and distribution of movies, think about the other industries that depend on Hollywood. If they stopped making movies and TV shows who would want to go out and buy all those flat-screen TVs and surround-sound systems?

• $650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.
Money well spent in my opinion. The initial coupon program proved to be very popular and ran out already. That means the money is being turned over very quickly and making its way back into the ecomomy which is exactly what the stimulus is trying to do.
• $88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker (arctic ship). this might be ok but this is just for the design … whats wrong with the icebreakers we have at this point?
Some company is going to get the contract to design that ship. Another will get the contract to build it. That means jobs, jobs and more jobs.

• $448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters. yeah this is a NO …
Constructing buildings is very clearly stimulus. It is infrastructure. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters. seriously hit up a WalMart for furniture … but again NO
Wal-Mart does not make furniture. They are a re-seller. Why go through them just so they can take a cut? Some company out there that makes the furniture will get the contract and that means more jobs, etc.

•$600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees. how does this create jobs or help US automakers
How does it NOT help the auto industry? The government is going to BUY vehicles from the auto companies. This is the most clear example of stimulus for a distressed company that I’ve seen. Whoever put this list together doesn’t have a clue.

• $400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD’s. this doesnt stimulate the economy
I agree that this one is questionable. They would have to hire people to go out and provide the screening services and so that is clearly a boon for some medical supply and service companies. But it probably doesn’t belong in the stimulus bill.

• $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.
• $125 million for the Washington sewer system. again how does this stimulate the economy?

By employing people who would build and maintain the waste disposal and sewer systems (i.e. infrastructure).

• $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities. see above comment
The Smithsonian museum has been badly neglected during the Republican reign in Washington. There are cracked ceilings, water leaks and major structural problems that have forced the closure of some sections of the museum and has even resulted in damage to some of our nation’s most prized treasures. It is a disgrace. I don’t care if you want to call it stimulus or not. I say it is infrastructure that needs to be better cared for.

• $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion. create more efficient census techniques
Fine. What are your ideas? The Census is a huge job that gets bigger and more complex every 10 years as the population continues to grow and diversify. Maybe it doesn’t belong in the stimulus bill, but it is money the government will need to spend anyway.

• $75 million for “smoking cessation activities.” no stimulation here …
When you convince people to stop smoking it saves millions down the road in health care costs. It is a worthy program assuming that it is effective, but probably shouldn’t be in the stimulus bill.

• $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges.
That means jobs for the companies that make and sell computers, jobs for the companies that install and maintain computers and jobs for the companies that build out the spaces where the computer centers will go. Plus it is a boon to education and can help people retrain to get better jobs and so on and so on...

• $75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI. no … this belongs in an budget appropriations bill not a stimulus package
I agree. Don’t know how that got in there. But in a $900 billion stimulus bill, we are essentially arguing about change found under the sofa cushions.

• $25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction. no stimulation here
See comment on smoking cessasion above.

• $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River.
• $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.
• $6 billion to turn federal buildings into “green” buildings.
• $500 million for state and local fire stations.
Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. Any questions?

• $1.2 billion for “youth activities,” including youth summer job programs.
The key words here are “job programs.” Got that?

• $88 million for renovating the headquarters of the Public Health Service.
• $412 million for CDC buildings and property. how does this create jobs … oh yeah it doesn’t
By employing the people who do construction renovation work

• $500 million for building and repairing National Institutes of Health facilities in Bethesda, Maryland. I guess these are considered construction jobs?

The list goes on and it gets a bit repetitive, but I think you get the idea. But as Steve Benen has noted, all the items that Republicans objected to come to just 2 percent of the overall stimulus bill.
So why are we holding up a bill that we are 98 percent in agreement on to squabble over 2 percent?

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