I haven't had a lot to say about politics recently, mostly due to not knowing much about what is going on. I've had my head so far down with everything I have been working on personally that I haven't been paying any attention to the national/international picture. But that's changing, since one of the perks my new job (referred to from here on out as "Cubeland") is a coworker and friend of a decidedly and proudly conservative bent who likes to talk politics. He didn't waste more than a day or two before he started quizzing me on Obama's first few weeks, and in particular the stimulus bill. About which I could say very little, as I haven't kept at all with what is actually in it.
So...I decided to devote a few precious moments and actually read an outline of the package, so I'll be a bit better informed. I got my summary here. And I'm just going to try to tackle it point by point:
Investments in Infrastructure and Science
- $7.2 billion for Broadband to increase broadband access and usage in unserved and underserved areas of the Nation, which will better position the U.S. for economic growth, innovation, and job creation.
I have no problem here. I think this is a good idea.
- $2.75 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to secure the homeland and promote economic activity, including $1 billion for airport baggage and checkpoint security, $430 million for construction of border points of entry, $210 million for construction of fire stations, $300 million for port, transit, and rail security, $280 million for border security technology and communication, and $240 million for the Coast Guard.
I don't really think this is necessary, honestly, but whatever, no skin off my nose.
- $4.6 billion in funding for the Corps of Engineers.
I believe this is for things like dams and bridges, right? Isn't that what even the very conservative want government to do?
- $1.2 billion for VA hospital and medical facility construction and improvements, long-term care facilities for veterans, and improvements at VA national cemeteries.
This isn't enough, frankly. But it's a start. All for it.
- $3.1 billion for repair, restoration and improvement of public facilities at on public and tribal lands.
This one I'd need to dig on a bit. What types of facilities? What types of restoration and improvement? This is maybe not the time to spend on things like that, but it really depends what in specific this means.
- $4.2 billion for Facilities Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization to be used to invest in energy efficiency projects and to improve the repair and modernization of Department of Defense facilities to include Defense Health facilities.
For it. Energy efficiency in public buildings of all kinds should be an immediate priority.
- $2.33 billion for Department of Defense Facilities including quality of life and family-friendly military improvement projects such as family housing, hospitals, and child care centers.
Again, probably not enough, but on the right track. We treat the people we expect to die for us pretty damn badly in this country. I'm for anything that improves that.
- $2.25 billion through HOME and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program to fill financing gaps caused by the credit freeze and get stalled housing development projects moving.
Makes total sense, don't see what there is to argue with here.
- $1 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program for community and economic development projects including housing and services for those hit hard by tough economic times.
Again, makes total sense. Unless, of course, you just hate poor people...
- $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural areas and to ensure adequate water supply to western localities impacted by drought.
Yeah, not a lot to argue with here either.
- $27.5 billion is included for highway investments
This seems like a lot, frankly. Is the highway really that terrible? How many people will this employ?
- $8.4 billion for investments in public transportation.
- $1.5 billion for competitive grants to state and local governments for transportation investments.
How is this different that the previous two? Confused here.
- $1.3 billion for investments in our air transportation system.
Huh. Is this airline bailout money? Cuz I start to take issue there.
- $9.3 billion for investments in rail transportation, including Amtrak, High Speed and Intercity Rail.
Probably a good idea, but right now? I don't know. Again, aren't these private companies? Why do they need $9.3 billion in government money?
- $4 billion to the public housing capital fund to enable local public housing agencies to address a $32 billion backlog in capital needs -- especially those improving energy efficiency in aging buildings.
- $2 billion for full-year payments to owners receiving Section 8 project-based rental assistance.
- $2 billion for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes.
Not sure on this one. Maybe not the most efficient use of housing funds in a recession.
- $1.5 billion for homeless prevention activities, which will be sent out to states, cities and local governments through the emergency shelter grant formula.
Sure, seems prudent given the economy.
- $250 million is included for energy retrofitting and green investments in HUD-assisted housing projects.
See previous opinions on the necessity of increased green energy. It's long past time.
Environmental Clean-Up/Clean Water
- $6 billion is directed towards environmental cleanup of former weapon production and energy research sites.
This makes me nervous. What happens if this doesn't happen? Are these places a hazard? If so, why isn't clean-up already budgeted? Geez.
- $6 billion for local clean and drinking water infrastructure improvements.
- $1.2 billion for EPA's nationwide environmental cleanup programs, including Superfund.
I'm not sure what this refers to. But if it's a way to get the government to pay for environmental clean-up that businesses should be doing themselves, then it makes me grouchy.
- $1.38 billion to support $3.8 billion in loans and grants for needed water and waste disposal facilities in rural areas.
Seems necessary, but I'd need to see more specifics here.
- $1 billion total for NASA.
Screw this one. NASA can bite me.
- $3 billion total for National Science Foundation (NSF).
- $2 billion total for Science at the Department of Energy including $400 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency--Energy (ARPA-E).
Needed investment, though it may be too little and too late.
- $830 million total for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
Again, probably needed investment.
Investments in Health
- $19 billion, including $2 billion in discretionary funds and $17 billion for investments and incentives through Medicare and Medicaid to ensure widespread adoption and use of interoperable health information technology (IT). This provision will grow jobs in the information technology sector, and will jumpstart efforts to increase the use of health IT in doctors' offices, hospitals and other medical facilities. This will reduce health care costs and improve the quality of health care for all Americans.
Huh. Well, depending on job increase, maybe. But this seems kind of large for right now.
- $1 billion for prevention and wellness programs to fight preventable diseases and conditions with evidence-based strategies.
- $10 billion to conduct biomedical research in areas such as cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease and stem cells, and to improve NIH facilities.
This stuff funds Mark and those like him. I don't knock this stuff, especially given the cuts NIH has faced in recent years.
- $1.1 billion to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, NIH and the HHS Office of the Secretary to evaluate the relative effectiveness of different health care services and treatment options.
I'm not 100% sure what this means.
Investments in Education and Training
- $53.6 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, including $39.5 billion to local school districts using existing funding formulas, which can be used for preventing cutbacks, preventing layoffs, school modernization, or other purposes; $5 billion to states as bonus grants for meeting key performance measures in education; and $8.8 billion to states for high priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education and for modernization, renovation and repairs of public school facilities and institutions of higher education facilities.
This is, from what I know and have seen, absolutely a good idea and a necessary expenditure.
- $13 billion for Title 1 to help close the achievement gap and enable disadvantaged students to reach their potential.
Need specifics here.
- $12.2 billion for Special Education/IDEA to improve educational outcomes for disabled children. This level of funding will increase the Federal share of special education services to its highest level ever.
Seems to make sense to lighten burden on local districts given low property taxes right now.
- $15.6 billion to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500. This aid will help 7 million students pursue postsecondary education.
Absolutely, though I'd like to see this go a lot farther.
- $3.95 billion for job training including State formula grants for adult, dislocated worker, and youth programs (including $1.2 billion to create up to one million summer jobs for youth).
Can't argue with job training in a recession.
Investments in Energy
- $4.5 billion for repair of federal buildings to increase energy efficiency using green technology.
As previously stated, all for it.
- $3.4 billion for Fossil Energy research and development.
Hmmm...not sure about this one.
- $11 billion for smart-grid related activities, including work to modernize the electric grid.
Seems a like a big investment for this right now. Is there any impact on jobs?
- $6.3 billion for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Grants.
- $5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program.
Not sure what this is.
- $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research.
Sure. Absolutely. Doesn't even seem like enough.
- $2 billion in grant funding for the manufacturing of advanced batteries systems and components and vehicle batteries that are produced in the United States.
Hrm. Shouldn't this be privately funded research?
- $6 billion for new loan guarantees aimed at standard renewable projects such as wind or solar projects and for electricity transmission projects.
- $1 billion for other energy efficiency programs including alternative fuel trucks and buses, transportation charging infrastructure, and smart and energy efficient appliances.
Again, probably a good investment.
Help for Workers and Families Hardest Hit by the Economic Crisis
- $19.9 billion for additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly Food Stamps, to increase the benefit by 13.6 percent.
- Child Care Development Block Grant: $2 billion to provide quality child care services for an additional 300,000 children in low-income families who increasingly are unable to afford the high cost of day care.
- Head Start & Early Head Start: $2.1 billion to allow an additional 124,000 children to participate in this program, which provides development, educational, health, nutritional, social and other activities that prepare children to succeed in school.
Had me at hello.
- State and Local Law Enforcement: $4 billion total to support law enforcement efforts.
Huh. Is this necessary?
- $555 million to expand the Department of Defense Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) during the national mortgage crisis.
Probably necessary, but makes me cranky.
So, as predicted, this doesn't look too bad to my little tax and spend heart. Some of it I absolutely think is a good idea. I'm a little bit taken aback at the lack of emphasis on job creation and re-employment, but other than that nothing here bothers me much at all.
So tell me, folks, why exactly is everyone hating on this thing? Just because it costs too much?