Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stimulating waste

I've never been a big fan of the so-called Stimulus Package proposed by Pres. Obama and passed by the Democratic Congress. I don't object to spending money, even a lot of money, if it's on projects or ideas that are targeted and well thought out. The Stimulus Package, by contrast, is not thought out at all.

It simply takes close to $800,000,000,000, throws it up in the air and hopes something good happens with some of residue. That may have worked in the Great Depression, and there's quite a bit of historical debate on whether it actually did, but needless to say we are not today in a depression, great or small.

This crystallized for me some months ago when I heard New York Gov. David Paterson's remarks while inaugurating some road project in the Albany suburbs. He was asked by a reporter why the road did not include a bike path. You have to remember this is Stimulus money, the governor insisted. It's Stimulus money. It's Stimulus money.

It was on the radio so I could not tell if he clicked his heels three times.

Basically, Paterson said that because the project was being paid for with Stimulus money, the most important thing was that it be done quickly -- not that it be done well, not that it be done efficiently or in a beneficial way, but that it be done as fast as possible.

The insanity of all was brought him in today's issue The Post-Star.

The paper editorialized against the purchase of a $550,000 hybrid bus by the local public transit company. The editorial pointed out that the transit company didn't even want a hybrid bus until it realized that there was Stimulus money available for it.

For the record, I'm a very strong advocate of public transit. I think the local system should be expanded so that actually using it is more viable for more people. I use buses but would use it much more if its limited runs weren't so inconvenient for my work schedule. But the new hybrid bus is not being used to expand service in any case.

By contrast, a report on last night's Glens Falls Common Council meeting noted: [NY] State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander Grannis recently notified the city in a letter that no funding is available for dam refurbishment projects under the federal stimulus program.

Glens Falls is under orders from the state to make something like $13 million in repairs to the city's dams.

So Stimulus money is available for buses that are not needed and will not be used to expand service or create jobs, but not a dime of it is available for mandated repairs to critical infrastructure.

Vice-President Biden was in the region last week on his The Stimulus is Wonderful national tour. Too bad he couldn't have been asked why GF can get money for a luxury but not a necessity.

1 comment:

Mark said...