The Calculus (and Politics) of Stimulus II
A healthy squabble erupted between the White House and Sen. Thomas Coburn yesterday over the benefits and drawbacks of the stimulus spending.
Well, it continues. And now they're getting deep into the weeds. And yet it's still kind of interesting.
As some of you undoubtedly know, the White House issued a report about the achievements of the stimulus spending so far. In short, it said everything was cool.
"In the first 100 days since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, we have obligated more than $112 billion, created more than 150,000 jobs and helped communities and tribes in every state and territory."
In response, Coburn issued a report yesterday that said, in effect, everything isn't so cool.
Called a "Second Opinion on the Stimulus," its 100 examples of alleged poor or misguided stimulus projects include "nearly $10 million to renovate an abandoned train station that hasn't been used in 30 years" and "10,000 dead people get stimulus checks."
Both sides seemed to play fair until they got to No. 71 on Coburn's list:
"Steam rooms in the fitness center of Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas will undergo repairs funded by federal stimulus funds. According to the solicitation for bids on the project, the total cost is expected to be up to $100,000."
The White House folks had a quick comeback. In their long retort to Coburn's report, they noted that the program actually does not qualify for stimulus funding. They cited No. 71 as one of many factual errors in Coburn's report that undermines its credibility.
"FALSE. This project was not funded with Recovery Act funds."
"Sen. Coburn's report, however, is filled with inaccuracies, including criticisms of projects that have already been stopped, projects that never were approved, and some projects that are working quite well," a White House official said in a statement.
But wait. It turns out that that somebody canceled the program at 9:37 yesterday morning, not long before the White House released its response to Coburn. Here's the posting online for the project.
We have asked the White House who canceled the program and why. They said 1. It wasn't them and 2. The steam rooms never really made it onto the approved list of project eligible for the stimulus funding 3. The decision not to include it on the approved list was made some time ago. Here's a lhttp://www.defenselink.mil/recovery/plans_reports/2009/april/DoD_ARRA_First_Report_to_Congress-24_Mar_09.pdf provided by the White House.
In the meantime, we're left pondering this, the language posted yesterday on FedBizOps about the project:
"This solicitation was canceled in its entirety and is no longer considered an approved project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)."
So if it was never on the approved list for stimulus spending, why is it "no longer considered an approved project?" According to the White House, it never was, right?
Oh well. It seems kind of picayune in the grand context of the stimulus effort. On the other hand, could it be that someone is manipulating something somewhere here for political gain?
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