The Calculus (and Politics) of Stimulus

Sen. Tom Coburn is offering a GOP counterpoint to a recent White House report that extolled the early successes of the $787 billion stimulus program.

The White House report focused on 100 projects that administration officials believe demonstrate the wisdom of the massive fast-spending effort to jolt the economy back to health.

Coburn's report essentially says "Wait one minute there, fellas." It's called "A Second Opinion on the Stimulus," and it features 100 projects that the senator and his staff believe show the waste and foolishness of some stimulus spending.

An LA Times story this morning says the report "contends the Obama administration's stimulus program is fraught with waste and incompetence -- evidenced by a turtle crossing in northern Florida that will cost more than $3 million and a snafu in which thousands of Social Security checks went out to people who had died."

"Will these projects make real improvements in the lives of taxpayers and communities or are they simply pet projects of politicians and lobbyists that never got off the ground because they are a low priority?" the report says.

The White House has something to say about all this. We'll add it when they say it. For now, from the earlier report:

"Across America, recovery is under way. From the new State of Maine Ferry to a community health center in Mississippi, from classrooms in Florida to the Willamette River Bridge in Washington -- we are using the Recovery Act to jump-start our economy today, while building a new foundation for the sustained economic growth of tomorrow."

We knew the White House would have something to say. Here's a statement we just received from Ed DeSeve, Senior Advisor to the President for Recovery Act Implementation:

"We have approved more than 20,000 Recovery Act projects to get America's economy moving again. The program is, overall, a great success. With 20,000 projects approved, there are bound to be some mistakes - when we find them, we have been transparent about it, and worked on a bipartisan basis to shut them down immediately. 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. If Sen. Coburn has found any problematic projects, we will address them immediately - but much of this seems to be little more than an objection to the Recovery Act itself, which Sen. Coburn opposed."

The baton now passes back to the senator, should he care to grab hold. We'll be standing by.



By Robert O'Harrow |  June 16, 2009; 10:55 AM ET stimulus
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Comments

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$5.5b out of $787b

OMG...7/10 of 1%.

We're doomed...I tell you. DOOMED!

What _will_ be tell the children?

Posted by: toweringqs | June 16, 2009 12:03 PM

If you believe that all spending will solve the economic difficulty then, of course, reward your friends (of both parties) with gifts.

If you believe that Governments govern and employers employ, then one has to be more careful which private firms get the money since the only way to a fixed economy is to encourage private sector job creation.

Although the temptation is there to buy votes and friends, I honestly believe the present government is following their economic theory. The risk is that if we're wrong and the economy does not recover enough to pay back all the money, you both don't get a second chance, and you have moved your country way down in world standings.

I'm hoping the "spend till you drop" theories are correct.

Posted by: tommariner | June 16, 2009 12:04 PM

Sheesh, it is not 7/10 of 1%. That would be true if all the stimulus money had been spent. Or if all the money were for construction projects. Neither is true.

First off, $479 billion of the $787 billion is for tax write offs and entitlement enhancements. Hard to screw up that stuff. So approximately 60% of the money isn't even capitol expenditures, where you would expect waste and fraud to occur.

What they have done is waste $1 billion out of $86 billion in capitol expenditures allocated for this year. That is 1.2 %. Or it could be out of what has been spent to date. That is $19 billion, in which case waste and fraud accounts for 5.3 %. Projected out, that equals about $5 billion that will be wasted this year alone. Hard to say really, the article itself isn't very good at providing useful information, just a "he said this, then they said that" kind of stuff. How about posting some actual statistics?

How about this statistic: $ 1 billion dollars is 20,000 times my yearly salary. It sure seems like a lot of money to me. But then again, I don't work in government.

Also, according to O himself, the stimulus plan “will not be an excuse for waste and abuse...Whenever a project comes up for review, we’re going to ask a simple question: Does it advance the core mission of the Recovery Act? Does it jump-start job creation? Does it lay the foundation for lasting prosperity?” Joe Biden was supposed to monitor this and act as a "sheriff".

Some people, such as myself, kinda, sorta took that seriously.

What to tell the children? Tell them you were lazy, ill informed, snide, and didn't give a crap about their future. They'll understand.

Posted by: Geoman1 | June 16, 2009 12:44 PM

When Ronnie Raygun spent all of my generation's money on high-tech weapons for an imaginary future war with a foe so incompetent and broke that they (in some cases literally) fell apart 10-15 years later, Republicans said things like, "There is no direct or indirect connection between deficits and inflation.". That was William Niskanen in front of the American Enterprise Institution in 1981. Now all you hear from flamboyant right-wingers is that all of this spending is going to destroy our freedoms and bury our children in Chinese debt! Were these republicans alive when Nixon more than doubled spending? Ooooo Vietnam, such a danger to the US, with their muskets and rickshaws. Good thing we spent a gazillion dollars annihilating their family farms, otherwise communism might have spread into the Pacific Ocean. How many times do we have to listen to Republicans, whose presidents always spend more than we have, tell us that if we don't give the Republican Congress our tax money, we'll all die in some communist, "islamo-fascist" nuclear holocaust, but if we give money to the Democratic Congress we'll all starve to death in utter poverty and America will be totally ruined forever! The only response I can think of to Coburn's silly antics is, "Shut the ____ up!"

Posted by: chorpophone | June 16, 2009 12:50 PM

"What _will_ be tell the children?"

If you're going to post a baseless, stupid, and probably racist comment on a messageboard, at least show that you're smart enough to spell your "profound quote" correctly. Idiot.

Posted by: MisterJ8 | June 16, 2009 3:38 PM

The critics of the stimulus bill are the ones that thought it was a great idea to kick off the Bush admin by sending everyone a check for, what $300? And the rationale was that there was a surplus and it was our money. Then there wasn't a surplus and we all got checks to get the economy rolling again. I think the nay sayers need to sit down, shut up and let someone else try to get us out of this ditch that we are in from the previous administration.

Posted by: cyberfool | June 16, 2009 4:47 PM

No worries, money can be printed as needed.

Posted by: caramello51 | June 16, 2009 5:02 PM

chorpophone

Reagan spending on the high tech weapons were arguably responsible for breaking the back of the Soviets (by their own admission). So, I guess you could say that was money well invested - we don't seem to spend much on the Cold war anymore.

There are no direct or indirect connections between deficits and inflation UNLESS you monetize the debt, which Reagan didn't do and Obama looks increasing like he will have to do. Hence the concern.

Yes Reagan. His average deficit was 4.2% of GDP. W. managed average deficits of 2.6% of GDP. Obama plans on a 12% GDP deficit for 2009. In other news, since having a beer once in a while is okay, injecting heroin into your eyeballs is okay too.

You seem stuck on "The Republicans did a bunch of stupid stuff once, so Obama gets to do stuff even stupi..dier...". You don't even TRY and defend what is going on, because you simply can't. It is utterly indefensible and likely to result in ruin for the country. But hey, it's your guy's turn, so "shut the ___ up." as you so eloquently concluded your argument.

Posted by: Geoman1 | June 16, 2009 5:47 PM

Looks like more *free money* will be required to fix the problem.

Posted by: Jaymand | June 16, 2009 6:14 PM

Gee, I thought big-shot Joe Biden was supposed to be minding-the-store on stimulus spending waste.

Posted by: BubbaRight | June 17, 2009 11:23 AM

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