Sunday :: Dec 14, 2008

Show Me The Money

by Deacon Blues

You would think that any effort by the incoming administration to rebuild our national infrastructure and avert a depression would be welcomed, given how badly this country has crumbled under conservative rule since 1995. Yet I am amazed at how quickly the Beltway media can throw cold water upon any bold departure from this conservative orthodoxy, embodied in Barack Obama’s domestic stimulus package to jumpstart the economy.

Case in point is a story in today’s Post, which tallies up the likely short-term transportation projects to be funded by a two-phase Obama stimulus package. As envisioned by the incoming administration, the first phase of the domestic stimulus dealing with infrastructure would center on job-producing projects that can be started immediately, ones that have gone unfunded for years while conservatives starved infrastructure out of a short-sighted concern for keeping gas taxes as low as possible.

Even as the conventional wisdom seems to coalesce around a domestic stimulus package in excess of $600 billion, comprised of infrastructure, direct state aid, and another round of rebate checks and benefit extensions, the short-term infrastructure piece of this totals only about $76 billion. Team Obama, state officials, and stakeholders all agree that our new infrastructure effort needs to be a two-phase effort: the first phase focused on short-turnaround job-producing projects that have an immediate multiplier effect; and a second phase focused on larger investments that will finally address our economic and energy challenges ignored by years of conservative GOP negligence.

Yet the Post actually worries that once the short-term projects are funded at the piddling sum of that $76 billion, there will be less political appetite for maintaining the momentum for the larger needs in Phase Two, such as new energy networks, energy sources, water and sewer upgrades, and next-generation transit systems. Why would spending half of what we spend in Iraq every year on critical needs here at home cause the Post to raise such a concern?

This administration just blew through $350 billion of taxpayer money for Wall Street, and it appears that Main Street got nothing for it. Now the GOP Senate, over a measly $15 billion in loan guarantees, wants to destroy the only major industry that still builds something in this country by demanding things that were never demanded of Wall Street. And now the Post is worried that an infrastructure investment of $50-100 billion a year over and above what little we spend now, in a federal budget of several trillion dollars will not find long-term political support?

Maybe to the cocktail weenie crowd inside the Beltway, spending money on infrastructure is a little too "New Deal" for their sophisticated tastes. But I'd bet if you ask Main Street over the next several years if they want their government to spend money on these things here at home, or on Iraq wars and disaster capitalism abroad, they'll gladly pick the former. If we can flush $350 billion down the toilet for Wall Street, I don't want to hear any crap from Republicans or Beltway navel-gazers about their concerns or opposition to spending several hundred billion on Main Street. It's well past time to bring the money back into our states and communities.

Deacon Blues :: 4:53 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!