The $1.17 trillion stimulus bill passed by House Democrats on Wednesday bears little resemblance to the bill originally proposed by President Obama, with less than 5 percent of the funds now going to repair America’s deteriorating infrastructure.
GOP critics point out the bill is loaded with tens of billions for items ranging from Amtrak subsidies to sexually transmitted diseases to the National Endowment for the Arts -- much of which won’t actually flow into the economy until long after economists expect the current economic crisis to subside.
In late November, Obama promised: “It will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America, and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy. We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges,” modernizing schools and stimulating development of alternative forms of energy.
Even some Democrats are now objecting that the measure contains too few highway and mass transit projects. Moreover Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com, says most of the infrastructure spending in the plan won’t occur until 2010 or later.
Provisions of the bill that many legislators are questioning:
$1 billion for Amtrak, which hasn’t earned a profit in four decades.
$2 billion to help subsidize child care.
$400 million for research into global warming.
$2.4 billion for projects to demonstrate how carbon greenhouse gas can be safely removed from the atmosphere.
$650 million for coupons to help consumers convert their TV sets from analog to digital, part of the digital TV conversion.
$600 million to buy a new fleet of cars for federal employees and government departments.
$75 million to fund programs to help people quit smoking.
$21 million to re-sod the National Mall, which suffered heavy use during the Inauguration.
$2.25 billion for national parks. This item has sparked calls for an investigation, because the chief lobbyist of the National Parks Association is the son of Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wisc. The $2,25 billion is about equal to the National Park Service’s entire annual budget. The Washington Times reports it is a threefold increase over what was originally proposed for parks in the stimulus bill. Obey is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
$335 million for treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. $4.19 billion to stave off foreclosures via the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The bill allows nonprofits to compete with cities and states for $3.44 billion of the money, which means a substantial amount of it will be captured by ACORN, the controversial activist group currently under federal investigation for vote fraud. Another $750 million would be exclusively reserved for nonprofits such as ACORN – meaning cities and states are barred from receiving that money. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., charges the money could appear to be a “payoff” for the partisan political activities community groups in the last election cycle.
$44 million to renovate the headquarters building of the Agriculture Department.
$32 billion for a “smart electricity grid to minimize waste.
$87 billion of Medicaid funds, to aid states.
$53.4 billion for science facilities, high speed Internet, and miscellaneous energy and environmental programs.
$13 billion to repair and weatherize public housing, help the homeless, repair foreclosed homes.
$20 billion for quicker depreciation and write-offs for equipment.
$10.3 billion for tax credits to help families defray the cost of college tuition.
$20 billion over five years for an expanded food stamp program.
Republican leaders say the stimulus package will add 32 new government programs at a cost of $136 billion. They object that many of the programs, once established, are likely to continue indefinitely.
Most media outlets are reporting the cost of the package at $819 billion. As Newsmax revealed yesterday, however, the Congressional Budget Office calculates that the interest on the debt generated by the bill’s spending will cost another $347.1 billion, making the total cost approximately $1.17 trillion.
Of course, the measure contains hundreds of billions in tax cuts and infrastructure projects that conservatives will find palatable. But as House Minority whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., told the media Wednesday, “This was not a stimulus bill. It was a spending bill.”