Let's review the list released on Monday of GOP leaders' objections to "wasteful spending" in the Senate version of the approximately 900 billion dollar stimulus.
Here's a handful of the items they consider wasteful:
• $75 million for "smoking cessation activities."
• $125 million for the Washington sewer system.
• $400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD's.
• $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges.
• $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees.
• $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River.
• $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities.
I haven't been able to find more specific information on the complaints, so it's possible that they have concerns about the allocation or amount. Maybe they even think that we should be dedicating more money to certain things. We spend billions each year on health problems caused by smoking, maybe they want to double, or triple the amount for smoking cessation.
If only that were the case. As it stands it seems Republican leadership is against human waste management, std prevention, flood prevention, and museums.
The biggest earmarks they object to:
• $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings.
• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient.
• $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.
• $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.
• $1.2 billion for "youth activities," including youth summer job programs.
• $850 million for Amtrak.
I think it would be fantastic if federal buildings were greened, but even I'm surprised by the price tag. This is the biggest item on the list, and I wonder how far down the line of federal buildings they plan on going. Is this just for buildings in Washington, or would this also cover greening for the Johnson County Courthouse?
I'm also willing to admit that the earmark for FutureGen is a little suspect. It's based in Illinois, the only state specific earmark on this list. And it was defunded. However, I support it in theory. Maybe this would be better included in another stimulus package or Act more clearly focused on green energy and alternative fuel.
I'd like to support Amtrak, but before I do that they'd have to convince me that Amtrak is accessible. If there was an Amtrack station within 30 minutes of where I live that could take me to Chicago and beyond that would be great, but the closest Amtrak station is an hour and half away, and I doubt that 850 million dollars will be enough to open many new locations, if the allocation is for that anyway. Now if they were trying to create a national public railway in order to create more jobs and provide affordable and accessible transportation I'd be all over that.
The rest of the big and small ticket items on this list are a pretty good indicator of why I'm not a Republican, and I hope some would be mystifying even to conservatives. I mean, c'mon. We're talking about a 900 billion dollar package. These were really the most damning instances of pork-barrel spending Republicans could find? We're talking about less than 2% of the total package, with most of these for essential human services or money saving green energy initiatives.
For more on this issue check out these sites:
The Wonk Room
Paul Krugman: Bad Faith Economics
I tried to find an alternate take on a conservative blog, but all I found were 100 different sites with the same message: Make the Bush tax cuts permanent.