Fact: I like steak. Real steak. You know, flame-kissed chunks of beef that still moo when you stab it with a fork. Imagine my disappointment, then, the first time I ordered a Salisbury Steak. Rather than a plate over flowing with sizzling bovine deliciousness, I got a hamburger patty covered in gravy. Look here, Mister Salisbury, I know steak and you sir, are no steak!
I believe President Obama and the Democrat-controlled congress use the word stimulus much in the same way Salisbury uses the word steak-i.e loosely. Despite all the special interest pork they cram in and pet project gravy they ladle on top, with the proposed stimulus bill you still won't get what you are looking for: juicy, delicious economic recovery.
In reality, this stimulus package is more like a hot dog than a Salisbury steak. The more we learn what is inside it, the more it makes us want to puke. Here are just some of the greasy details:
$100 million dollars for child development centers. Unless we are developing these children into cyborg butlers that we can sell two third-world oil barons, I don't see how these centers are going to stimulate the economy.
$15.6 billion for Pell grants to college students. How does incentivizing more kids to stay out of the workforce and in school provide a short term economic stimulus? Long term? Maybe. But short term the only people this portion of the stimulus benefits is Snack Ramen.
$66 million for school districts to provide services for homeless children. Unless they plan on serving these kids by putting them into sweatshops making knock-off Gucci bags, how could this possibly benefit the economy?
$250 Million to develop a data system that measures student achievement. Don't we already have the SAT and ACT for that?
$600 million for early intervention programs for children with disabilities. Good idea? Yes. Economically stimulating? No.
$2.4 Billion for Carbon Capture Sequestration technology. Thats right, $2.4 billion to invent some fandangled air purifier to remove carbon from the air and decrease our supposed environmental footprint. Oh, if only there were some type of organism that took carbon dioxide and, through the process of photosynthesis, turned it into clean, environmentally friendly oxygen. You know, something like a tree. Here is a thought, rather then investing this money into an unnecessary contraption that at best duplicates a process my front lawn is capable of, why don't we use it to plant more trees? At $100 dollars a tree, we could plant 24 million of them. This reminds me of the millions of dollars we spent during the race to space to invent a pen that could write in zero gravity while the Russians just used a pencil.
$200 million for leaking underground storage tank enforcement and clean up. Apparently these underground tanks must be leaking money. I can't think of any other reason why this would belong in a supposed stimulus bill.
$2.7 billion for comparative effectiveness research. I hope the first study this money funds is how comparatively effective comparative effectiveness research actually is. My guess: not much.
$1.1 billion for the expansion of Head Start. When it comes to who to blame for the economic crisis, I agree with the Federal Government. It is not Wall Street's fault, it is the fault of four year olds who have the audacity not to attend preschool. Glad to see we are using this stimulus package to do something about it.
$335 million for STD prevention programs. Looks like Hollywood is getting a portion of this stimulus package after all.
$30 billion for national highways. This is one of the only parts of the stimulus package I can agree with but not because I think it will help. Japan spent 10 years and $5 trillion dollars trying to pave their way out a recession and it failed miserably. But, since we are already on the highway to financial ruin, we might as well make it as smooth a ride as possible.
What these line-items of the project show is that, after being in the Whitehouse for only a few weeks, President Obama has already lost sight of what is important. In trying to help families bring home the bacon he has ended up just dishing out more pork.
The point of any economic stimulus package is to create more jobs. When people have jobs they can pay their mortgages, buy new homes, pay off their credit cards and buy large-screen TV's from Walmart- all fundamentals of our new economy. In fact, if we could create 5 million jobs, we could cut unemployment in half, bringing us to unemployment levels not seen since the mid 90's during the dot-com boom.
With a stimulus package of $825 billion dollars, each of those 5 million jobs would cost $165,000. That is enough to pay for the salary and benefits of the average American worker for three years. The answer, is not to try and trickle this money up from social programs or down from infrastructure projects, the answer is to put this money directly into the hands of employers. The government can simply pay for the salaries of any new hire employed by any organization (public or private) up to $45,000 a year for the next three years.
Is there any organization that would not take advantage of this? Manufacturing would be able to add workers and cut costs. Construction companies would be able to hire more employees and build faster and cheaper. Schools could add teachers and non-profit companies could add much needed man power. Now some controls would need to be put in place to prevent abuse, such as not allowing the number of employees funded through this program to exceed 5% of the total number of jobs within an organization, but these controls could be easily implemented and enforced with existing resources.
Of course this idea could never work in Washington D.C.. It is weighed down with far too much common sense. Its all steak and no sizzle.