The Stim

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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.


This bill may be as close to a completely objective and fair bill as possible and yet, in addition, it is the largest single expenditure bill ever passed and signed into law.

And thank God for it. If you take the state and local fund allocations, education and training, energy, plus infrastructure and science, you have about $251 billion in this bill to create, or in the case of the money to the states, also keep–key jobs–that would have been lost. The balance is pretty much locked up in tax cuts, some of which will not be seen until next year.

Apparently, the tax cuts will amount to something like $800 per year, so that would be a little less than $70 per month. Of course families need all the money they can get these days. In some cases, this increase could be the difference between having food the last week of the month or not. As opposed to the $43,0000 tax cuts (per each million dollars of income) that Bush and the Right Wing Republicans pushed through Congress, and will not terminate until 2010.

Money spent will be spent on education not only for teachers and books and computers, but to build and repair school buildings, which are literally falling down in many areas. Some of the education money is going to help students who have worked hard and are getting good grades finish college and provide incentives for very skilled and well educated people to come into the teaching field. Pell grants are being increased by $500.

We’ve heard a lot about infrastructure. Usually referred to as “roads and bridges.” But it also includes public buildings, science labs, equipment and the assembling of talent with specific skills to target projects in technology and health care. There will be plenty of work to resume the important tasks that have been sidelined for so many years while we downsized government and paid huge tax dividends to the top one-half percent.

Some of these projects, in bio-technology, computer science and energy will have huge implications for ongoing private industry and higher paying jobs. Some of these projects will transform the buildings to energy efficiency, to lower use of fossil fuels, to less carbon output. So even in grants for certain other institutional uses, there will be jobs in converting the current facilities. Not simply in the money for roads and bridges and levees.

One of the more controversial stimulus programs is the development of broadband access much deeper into rural areas. This enable schools and workers in rural areas to compete with those who have the advantage of opportunities more often found in metro areas. This will also have other benefits, such as distance learning and improved delivery of health care communication. Certainly better utilization of our rural areas for small business will bring a better quality of life and less congestion to our crowded metropolitan areas.

VA hospitals and clinics will be improved as will military base housing and facilities for our troops. Billions will go towards shoring up Homeland Security with investments in better border facilities, port inspection facilities, fire stations, and a diversified program to strengthen every aspect of our security here at home. The Corps of Engineers will get a big chunk to complete long-standing underfunded projects and initiate many others that were planned but never started.

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.