Wednesday, January 28, 2009

House Republicans Finally Get Serious About Pork; Democrats Ignore Infrastructure Needs

A searchable version of the bill can be found here. The Senate looks like they may be willing to amend provisions of the House version.

As Michelle Malkin notes, the Congressional Budget Office states that the true cost of this porkfest isn't $825 billion, but will really top $1.1 trillion once all interest and debt payments are factored in.

For all the talk by Obama and Democrats about how this bill will spur infrastructure repairs and that the nation's roads and bridges are in dire need of repair, replacement, and upgrade, only the tiniest portion of the package is actually going for building and repairing roads. While the WaPo claims that some Democrats are skeptical of the stimulus package and its paltry sums for infrastructure, they didn't vote against it in the House. How much of the stimulus package is for infrastructure improvements? $40 billion.
The bill to be voted on today includes $30 billion for roads and bridges, $9 billion for public transit and $1 billion for inter-city rail -- less than 5 percent of the package's total spending.
You read that right. It was all just so much talk. Obama and the Democrats instead larded up the stimulus package with their pet projects, all while the nation's infrastructure gets the shaft.

MSNBC, as expected, lumps together pork with the infrastructure portion of the bill to claim that "$550 billion in spending on roads and bridges, alternative-energy development, health-care technology, unemployment assistance, and aid to states and local governments." As previously noted, only $40 billion is going to roads and bridges and mass transit. That means $510 billion is going to all manner of other projects that gets lumped under innocuous headings.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear a story about how bridges and tunnels around the nation need major repairs, closures, crumbling levees, mass transit, and other public works lack sufficient funding. Keep that in mind as New York City struggles to build the Second Avenue Subway that would serve hundreds of thousands of people daily.

Keep that in mind as the power grid continues to groan under increasing demands for power while utilities are hard pressed to keep up with existing repair needs.

The bill provides billions of dollars for education spending, but doesn't bother to note that simply throwing money at education hasn't resulted in actual gains in performance. Throwing more money at higher education, in the form of larger Pell Grants and easier access to student loans will mean that universities can simply afford to charge higher tuition - a practice that has accelerated in recent years far beyond the rate of inflation. It actually results in making higher education less affordable and saddles students with loan obligations that rival home mortgages.

Democrats put their pet projects ahead of the national interest, claiming that this is necessary for stimulating the economy when it does no such thing and much of the money will be spent in the two years prior to the next national election in 2012. It's all designed to buy votes from people who don't realize the damage being done by such wasteful, profligate, and cynical spending.

How does $335 million for STD prevention programs count as stimulus? /save the jokes for the comments.

Whatever happened to the last infrastructure stimulus package, which was passed in 2005 with great fanfare? Where did all that money go?

Infrastructure of bridges and tunnels and roads requires constant upkeep to maintain it in proper working form. They need to be painted, repaired, and upgraded over time. It just isn't sexy work. It's routine. It's drudgery. It doesn't score photo ops the way building a new bridge or highway would.

The current porkfest provides only a fraction of the total amount to infrastructure repair of bridges, tunnels, and roads and mass transit. Ace wonders where are all the projects that really need major funding. I can think of four here in the NYC metro area; the full length Second Avenue Subway from Hanover Square to 125th Street, the 7 Line extension; the Hudson River tunnels (which are already partially funded from the feds, state, and PANY-NJ); a cross Hudson freight tunnel to relieve congestion throughout the NYC metro area; and expanded dredging of NY harbor for SuperPanamax ships to enter (luring business to the NYC metro area).

Other possible programs? A replacement Tappan Zee bridge, upgrades to the approach spans of the Brooklyn Bridge, new Goethals and Outerbridge Crossing spans (PANY already working towards new Goethals span).

But let's also note that Obama and his fellow Democrats want to ram this porkfest through now, because they know that the longer it's exposed to scrutiny, the quicker it will be picked apart as the porkfest it is.

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