We all knew there would be a stimulus package coming out of Congress. The question wasnâ€™t â€œifâ€ but â€œhow much.â€ Now that there are specifics, we can add another question: is it worth it?
According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, a mere $26 billion of the House stimulus bill’s $355 billion in new spending would actually be spent in the current fiscal year, and just $110 billion would be spent by the end of 2010. This is highly embarrassing given that Congress’s justification for passing this bill so urgently is to help the economy right now, if not sooner.
Like many, I was under the assumption that much of the stimulus would go to infrastructure improvements. While those would take awhile to get going and would create a mess of appropriations (some of which would be pure pork), improving our roadways and utilities is something we need to be doing anyway.
But the bill, as it is now, only includes $30 billion for highway construction. Thatâ€™s out of $550 billion in funds Congress wants to divvy out. Thatâ€™s a paltry sum. Where is the rest of the money going? Unemployment insurance. Renewable energy funding. Scientific research. Etc.
Each initiative will have to be assessed on its own merits, but increasing unemployment insurance is, at best, a stopgap and a shoddy one at that considering how many temporary workers, part-time workers and self-employed workers cannot access those benefits. And renewable energy research and other scientific pursuits, while laudable, will hardly create large numbers of jobs for the blue collar and service industry workers most affected by this recession.
Despite my fiscal conservative leanings, I am willing to support a stimulus plan, even a sizable one. But I question the efficacy of the plan currently on the table. In our rush to do something, anything, we must make sure weâ€™re not doing the wrong things. Congress should spend more time debating and rewriting this bill before sending it to the president.
The situation with the CBO report is not as cut-and-dry as the Wall Street Journal made it appear (The CBO Report That Never Was), a fact I missed due to the problems with this site.
Nevertheless, I remain skeptical that the current plan is as strong as it could be and definitely believe continued debate is necessary and more money for infrastructure (and less elsewhere) would improve the bill.