When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in February 2009, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress promised that it would help the economy recover and keep more people employed. Taxpayers were put on the hook for $787 billion worth of pork projects in Congressional districts all across the country, and what results have we seen? The unemployment rate went from 8.2 percent when the bill was passed to 9.5 percent in August 2010. This so-called “stimulus” spending has increased the national debt to unprecedented levels, which will cripple the economy for the foreseeable future.
Since we, the taxpaying public, have been forced to spend our hard-earned money for this stimulus program, are we at least getting a good return on our investment? If you really want to know, check out a publication called Summertime Blues: 100 stimulus projects that give taxpayers the blues. Recently released by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, it lists 100 handouts that waste taxpayers’ money, are being obviously mismanaged, or hurt small businesses.
Most of the projects on the Senators’ list can be described as “ill-advised,” but some of them are just plain kooky. Here are some examples:
- An $89,000 grant to an Oklahoma town to replace 5-year-old sidewalks that front no homes or businesses, and lead (ironically enough) directly to a ditch.
- $13.3 million to refurbish a national park in the Florida Keys that is mostly underwater, accessible only by boat or airplane, and has the third lowest attendance of any national park.
- Almost $500,000 to provide smartphones to smokers who want to kick the habit, so they can contact their support group by text message.
- $712,000 to Northwestern University to develop a computer that can tell jokes (not funny).
- A $25,000 grant to the 2009 International Accordion Festival for “a celebration of all things squeezebox.”
- Nearly $700,000 to study why monkeys respond negatively to unfairness (so do taxpayers).
Some projects intended to help local economies had just the opposite effect. A $3.8 million grant for street improvements in a Washington town blocked access to stores and restaurants, causing some businesses to lay off employees. Another streetscaping program in Wisconsin closed the downtown area during the entire tourist season. In Virginia, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used $450,000 to dredge sand out of a marina. Unfortunately, the sand they displaced left a popular riverside restaurant high and dry.
Two items in the list are located in Nevada. The Nevada Division of Forestry received $490,000 to give free trees to organizations willing to plant them. And, in the “throwing good money after bad” category, consider the wood-burning power plant at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City. The state has already invested $6.5 million to build this boondoggle, but the cost of getting the wood to the plant made the idea doomed from the start. Despite the fact that the plant will soon be shut down, it received $620,000 in stimulus funds.
In their introduction to this publication, Senators Coburn and McCain explain, “Washington should focus on re-igniting the unmatched power of the American entrepreneurial spirit by sweeping away government red tape, expanding markets for U.S. goods, making it easier for small businesses to compete in a global market, and reducing our national debt by eliminating wasteful Washington spending. Generating record-breaking national debt is not an investment in our children’s and grandchildren’s future and will not lead to any long-term recovery.”
It’s time to “Just Say No” to further attempts by the federal government to stimulate the economy.
To download a copy of the complete report, go to: http://johnmccain.com/images/uploads/Stimulus_Report.pdf