The Love Bloat: The American Recovery Act

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By SHARON K. GILBERT
January 28, 2009

THE TITLE of the bill sounds positive, even laudable: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. (download a pdf here).

The spin coming out of Washington is that the 258 page tome represents a shot in the arm for a flagging economy–that it will preserve jobs through small business grants and loans–and create new jobs by funding infrastructure projects–and increase benefits to jobless and low income persons and families. Yes, this lengthy and very wordy bill does all that–and more. So much more.

In fact, during just one cursory reading this morning, the bill revealed itself to be a Democratic agenda budget bill in disguise. Earmarks simply glisten on nearly every page!

Items to consider suspect:
• $350M to create a broadband inventory map.
• $400M to NOAA for ‘habitat restoration’
• $600M to NOAA for ‘climate modeling’ (no doubt, this makes the bill ‘green’)
• $400M to NASA for ‘Science’ (no kidding, it says ‘Science’ in quotes — how vague is that? — Mind you, $250M of it has to be used for ‘earth science’ — again with the ‘green’)
• $150M to NASA for ‘Aeronautics’ (yep, that’s what it says — mind you, I am all for funding NASA, but shouldn’t this be in the Budget Bill?)
• $2.5B (yep, Billion) to the National Science Foundation for ‘Research and Related Activities’ (you gotta love the vague nature of these allotments).
• $4.5B (again, Billion) for the DoD to restore and modernize Army barracks. Shouldn’t this be in the Defense portion of a Budget Bill? Remember, this funding isn’t growing on trees–or is it? Maybe we can have the NSI research money trees).
•$350M to the DoD for ‘Energy Research and Development’
• $18.5B to the DOE (Dept. of Energy) for ‘Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’ R&D. (Now maybe this is to help wean America off foreign oil — but it reads more like ‘green goodies’ for everybody. Shouldn’t this be in a separate bill? Why is the House sneaking in all kinds of ‘green projects’ into an economic recovery bill? If it creates jobs, great. But most of this funding sunsets by 2010 or 2011. What ‘pet projects’ is this intended to fund? I smell ham….)
• $600M to buy ‘energy efficient’ vehicles for the government fleet. I can just picture Pelosi and Reid scooting around town in electric cars. How is this stimulating the economy (unless perhaps it inspires Detroit to produce a viable electric car–yeah, I’m laughing, too).
• $100M to Homeland Security for ‘salaries and expenses’ for ‘non intrusive detection technology’ at ports of entry. Is this creating jobs?
• $200M to revitalize the National Mall in Washington. Huh? It’s a long stretch of grass!
• $800M for the Hazardous Substance Superfund. Huh? No jobs here that I can see.
• $850M for Wildfire Management (remember, this bill is the American Recovery Act — it’s not the Federal Budget Bill).
• $50M for the National Endowment for the Arts!!!
• $420M to HHS to prepare for a flu epidemic. Hint, hint.
• $3B to HHS for ‘Prevention and Wellness Fund’ with nearly a Billion to be used for immunizations — and almost half a billion is to be used ‘to carry out chronic disease, health promotion, and genomics programs…’ (GENOMICS? – creating a DNA database?) — $335M must go to STD research (isn’t this stimulus package wonderful?) And $500M of this money must be used for prevention of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, etc. (Again, how is this part of an economic recovery bill?)
• This bill also creates a “Council for Comparitive Effectiveness Research’ (that’ll provide about 15 jobs–oh, goodie)
• $13B for Education. (Hurray! I’m always in favor of improving schools, but part of this money goes for ‘early head start’ improvement. While this sounds good on the surface, remember that Obama championed a ‘zero to five’ policy in Illinois, which means ‘early head start’ could begin and one day be required for infants. Parental influence is disappearing into government hands, folks.)
• $14B to modernize and/or repair existing education buildings. Again, I’m all for it, but the wording constrains these repairs, etc. to bring buildings up to green code specs (Sec. 9301 — “21st Green High-Performing Public School Facilities). These monies are ‘use it or lose it’. Note also, that these projects require the use of US made steel and iron–but only if the cost of sufficient quantities of US materials are available (oops! they don’t have enough to ship today!) and/or the project cost does not exceed 25% over using non-domestic products. Now, that really stimulates the economy).
• There is a HUGE caveat to the monies provided to Education. The money cannot be used for any facility ‘used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity’. Many small churches meet in elementary schools on Sunday. And what about Christian schools? Sorry, Charlie!
• $79B (Billion) to the Dept. of Education under Title XIII (13, you gotta love it) — “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund’ — in other words, this is bail-out money to states to keep schools running. This money never comes without strings.

Overall, the bill contains some very robust infusions of cash to build and rebuild American infrastructure. Great. But will it produce jobs? It’s too early to tell. Will it save homes and/or jobs? Maybe. Does it cost you and me and our children lots of tax money? Yep. You bet!

It reminds me of the old Abbot and Costello routine, where Bud Abbot asks Lou Costello for a loan. It goes something like this (paraphrased):

ABBOT: Hey, Costello. Loan me fifty so I can buy some Christmas presents.
COSTELLO: Gee, Bud, all I got is two twenties.
ABBOT: That’s okay. I’ll take that. (takes the money) Thanks. Now, all you owe me is ten dollars.
COSTELLO: What? I OWE YOU? How do you figure that?
ABBOT: I wanted fifty, but all you had was forty. That leaves ten. You can give it to me now, if you want.
COSTELLO: But I have you all I had. I ain’t got nothin.
ABBOT: I can lend you then a twenty. (Hands him the money).
COSTELLO: Gee, thanks. I’m good for it.
ABBOT: What about the other thirty?
COSTELLO: Huh? What?
ABBOT: I asked for fifty, but all you had was forty. You still owe me fifty bucks.

The more the government giveth, the more it taketh away. So, do you feel ‘recovered’? Me neither.