Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Has Become of the Stimulus Money and Why We Want More

As you know, the stimulus bill was passed months ago with very little bipartisan support. Billions of dollars of the bill came in the form of block grants to states, who now have to decide what to do with it. I went to the site Recovery.gov to find out where the money went, and then picked which state I wanted to find out where the spending was to go. I chose California to investigate for several reasons.

  • It has received considerably more money than any other states

  • It has both a higher foreclosure rate and a higher unemployment rate than the country as a whole

  • Its state constitution makes it hard on constituents in times of recession

  • It has a Republican Governor (albeit one who supports the stimulus), but a Democratic legislature

  • I live there

Sadly, I could not find an exact accounting of the 700-odd projects that Governor Schwarzennegger was hyping up and had been mentioned in the Los Angeles Times, nor could I find an exact dollar amount for any one project (probably because that information doesn't need to be posted until May). What I did find was a general outline of a couple dozen big projects, including:

  • "NewStart" Mass transit projects for major cities

  • Discretionary highway spending

  • Upgrades to airports

  • Funding for transit agencies to buy green vehicles

  • Funding for tribal projects

I see no real problem with any of the projects, but I do think that too much money is delegated to patching patches and not enough has been dedicated to major long-haul projects such as high-speed rail and mass transit (This is probably due to political expiediency...the people who use mass transit, on the whole, don't vote nearly as much as those who use cars). Anyway, Here's why I'm interested in how the states are spending their money--because they want more money. Last Sunday, Schwarzenegger, PA Governor Ed Rendell, and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appeared on Meet the Press in the above clip. They were talking about the same thing I mentioned earlier in this post...they thought that there wasn't enough funding for big, new, necessary projects, citing a national high-speed rail network as an example. To remedy this, Schwarzenegger advocated additional federal, an avocation that would apall his fellow Republican Governors, Mssrs. Sanford and Jindal. And this got me thinking about a Saturday Night Live cold opener that aired during the stimulus debate and was rebroadcast on Saturday. (I know it's not REAL news, but it has been proven that those who watch political satire are more politically efficant). In it, Jason Sudeikis (as Joe Biden) proclaims that the $815 stimulus package "is going to get us to April. Tops." As fate would have it, Sudeikis might be right. More on the possible new stimulus bill in subsequent posts.

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