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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Some Perspective on the Stimulus from Stimuluswatch.org

One of the most comprehensive places on information regarding the stimulus is Stimulus Watch.org. The site lists tens of thousands of specific projects by region, Dollar amount, vitality and other measurements. It would take a year's worth of study to truly examine the stimulus plan as it is laid out in Stimulus Watch and that is the first perspective that I learned. The Stimulus plan is no simple plan. This is a complex plan on a scale never seen before.

What you will find on Stimulus Watch is about one hundred thousand separate projects proposed by localities. These projects range in cost from the tens of thousands to the tens of millions. Furthermore, while this stimulus starts in D.C., it winds up in places like Northbrook, Il., Carmel, In., Auburn, Al., Savannah, Ga. and towns everywhere in between. What's more, it's unclear whether a project is truly stimulative or pork meant to pay someone off.

Let's take this project from Carmel, In.

96th Street & Keystone Ave. Interchange Construction - The current signalized intersection will be converted to an interchange

$50,000,000.00 - 1500 jobs - Streets/Roads Program

On the surface, this sounds like a rather stimulative project. Then, there is this comment from a resident of Carmel.

Gack! I live in Carmel. We're one of the wealthiest communities in the state. A city of 50,000 and we spent a million dollars for 5 or ten statues around town. We are in the process of building a performance center!The Mayor lied about the cost of construction for this very road project and now he's seeking extra money to finish it, as well as extra money to finish the performance center.

So, if the commenter is right, federal tax Dollars will go to save a local project that went over budget and now they essentially need a bailout to finish it. Then again, does it matter? If the project is finished won't it be stimulative even if it is bailing out an irresponsible local government? Then again, how many such projects are there? To know, one would need to employ tens of thousands of people to study each and every project. This brings up another point. President Obama promised unprecedented transparency in this stimulus. Yet, that's frankly nonsense. There are about a hundred thousand specific projects listed on Stimulus Watch. How can transparency be achieved when there is so much data?

After all, this San Diego project is listed on the internet.

La Jolla Village Drive/I-805 Interchange

$21,000,000.00 - 0 jobs - Streets/Roads Program9 wiki edits 41 comments Ranked: 342 -->

Yet, how can someone from Illinois know if this is a good project or if it will be executed properly? The sheer size of the bill insures that transparency will be in theory only.

Looking closely at some parts of the stimulus, other things are learned. I decided to study my own homestate of Illinois. 117 localities have applied for projects. There are more than 300 cities in Illinois. So, the question must be asked. What will happen to the economies of localities that don't get a piece of the stimulus. My own hometown of Northbrook, Il. has applied for nearly $60 million in projects. Yet, Northbrook is a very well to do suburb and its local economy is no financial straits. Is it really a good use of stimulus money to shell out $60 million to a suburb with plenty of its own wealth. Northbrook has a median income of nearly $100k and a median property value of nearly $400k. With that kind of wealth, couldn't local taxes pay for most of these projects? In fact, well to do towns like Gross Pointe, Mi. and Beverly Hills, Ca. also apply for tens of millions of Dollars worth of projects.

Such projects raise the question of whether or not this is truly stimulative or if it is merely a boon for localities to soak the federal government for money to finish projects they simply don't want to pay for themselves. Some will say that it really doesn't matter and any spending is stimulative. Yet, is it stimulative to see well to do localities look to the federal government to fund projects they could fund themselves?

Finally, one thing is clear. This is the most complicated piece of legislation of all time. The stimulus is not an $800 billion bill. Rather it is one hundred thousand pieces of spending ranging from tens of thousands to tens of millions. In order to work, they all, for the most part, have to be spent wisely and without corruption. It becomes a leap of faith that localities like Auburn, Al. are spending on stimulative projects rather than merely boons for themselves and their friends. In order to work, these nearly one hundred thousand projects need to be puppetteered by federal, state, and local governments all working to make them stimulative. The President is confident it will work, but looking at Stimulus Watch makes me less than confident.

1 comment:

Harold Fowler said...

Wow, now THAT is some cool stuff!

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