Before you make any serious decisions on who is right and who is wrong in the way the economy is about to be re-started, better read this. The stimulus bill, officially the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has a truly amazing panoply of miscellaneous expenditure.
Yet these expenditures are not random or to any discernable degree earmarked for local areas despite the criticisms from the Right, which you may recall started with not wanting it at all…merely more tax cuts. And tax cuts for whom? You guessed it…the wealthiest Americans.
Transportation, including highway repair and construction, high-speed rail and airports received upwards of $25 billion. Clean air, clean water and clean up of old Super fund sites are included in this bill. Each segment receives over a billion dollars. Some of these are problems that have languished for years with no response by a Republican administration. In energy, the country will see the down payment on a new national energy grid, with about ten percent of the total investment included in this first bill. This may be the most important long-term project in the stimulus bill. This bill will also fund conservation measures with tax incentives and create service companies to take on the job of making homes and offices and and public buildings totally energy efficient. These are listed as “energy” projects but they all involve construction workers, technicians, environmental specialists, schedulers and administrative staff.
Help for those in Need
States have already noticed increases in requests for various kinds of assistance. Consequently, states will receive stimulus funds for a variety of uses from unemployment to childcare. They will receive about $40 billion to extend unemployment benefits through the end of the year and to raise the benefits by $25 per week.
Unemployment benefits will also be extended to a class of part-time employees understanding the recent trends towards contract employees and those who are often unable to find full-time work but can find part-time employment. There will be about $20 billion in job training and $3 billion for anticipated temporary welfare payments. Another $14.2 billion will go directly to the elderly poor through one-time payments of $250 to social security, supplemental security and disabled veterans.
Because there are many rural poor these days, rural housing loan guarantee programs have been increased by about $68 billion in both direct and subsidized loans. Another $130 million will be spent to build and improve rural facilities of various kinds and $150 million for grants and loans to aid business in rural areas.
The children of the poor are not left out of this program, with over $500 million being added to the National School Lunch Program for poor children. Another $25 million in commodities distribution is available on an as-needed basis. Day care and early childhood education programs will be expanded to cover families who families who cannot afford day care or pre-school programs.
Short term vs. Long term
One of the most comforting aspects of the stimulus was the process itself. In less than 30 days after the new adminstration took office and less than 90 days after an economic calamity at the end of the prior administration had been fully recognized, this program went into effect with into effect with some stunning aspects. Americans could have and perhaps might have expected from this new President a rapid plan of attack.
It is doubtful, however, that anyone could have anticipated the breadth and scope of the programs within the stimulus itself. Education is not only being assisted; it is being reformed. Health care will be delivered to a much larger number of Americans and for tens of millions more than in previous situations health care services will become a permanent opportunity to participate. Long-standing problems with roads, schools and public buildings will be dealt with. Serious problems with clean water, air polution and flood control will be addressed. High-speed rail will be initiated between several major cities to reduce the need for air travel, so that some of the fossil fuels used can be saved for military use, where they are absolutely necessary to fuel armored vehicles and aircraft.
Anyone who cannot see the long-term benefits of this program needs to take another look. It is cleare that, if the stimulus is any indication of the capability of the Obama brain trust, we are in for as great a positive contrast between on administration and the next as we have ever seen in this country.