Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The economic stimulus package

The ESP presented today apparently had some interesting inclusions:
1. The infamous $200 million for family planning, which has been taken out.
2. $650 million for digital TV converter-box coupons!!
3. $400 million for NASA climate change research.
[Washington Times link - yes, I know, WT, but still...]

#2 - are you freakin' kidding me?  On second thoughts, folks probably don't want to spend money on these boxes right now, with the economy in the toilet.  So what do they do - not watch TV?  The House today defeated a motion (actually, it didn't get the 2/3-rds majority required) delaying the transition to digital TV - Republicans opposed the delay.  Either Democrats strip the $650 million earmark and Republicans help pass the delay-bill; or the opposite happens.  Republicans can't oppose both; Democrats can't have both.
#3 - this could be a conflict of interest, but I suppose it could put some scientists back to work, and keep others (maybe including me?!) employed.  Still, I can understand Republicans not voting for the bill, alleging that Democrats are simply trying to advance a partisan agenda (though it is rather unfortunate that Republicans and idiots like Michael Crichton have politicized climate change research.)  Some of these inclusions need to be stripped from the bill.

Overall, though, the ESP has good spending - infrastructure, energy, digitizing hospital health records; hopefully this money will be spent soon.  As just reported on CNN/AC360, the non-partisan CBO says 64% of the spending will be over the next eighteen months.  Timothy Noah writes in that FDR's plan in the 1930s put 4 million people back to work in just two months - that's what Obama's plan has to live up to.

Update: On #1, Katha Pollitt writes in The Nation that birth control is health care, and if other health care provisions remain in the ESP, so should money allotted to Medicaid-provided contraception.  I might agree with that.
But she also goes on to quote a report in the NYT that according to the CBO, spending $550 million over ten years would save $200 million over five years.  She also states that birth control is an economic activity, and so should be helped (looking at what is being helped - wooden arrows from Oregon!? - this might even be a valid point!)  Two things.  Spend $550 million over ten years to save $200 million over five?  The Government saves more by not spending the $550 million in the first place!  Second, do birth rates go down (the point of contraception) in a Depression because the Government provides addition contraceptive aids?  As Pollitt herself writes, the answer is - because "People. Have. No. Money."  Then why should the Government provide extra funds for what will happen naturally?  Finally, wouldn't people having kids actually lead to greater economic activity than birth control?  So the government should really be subsidizing maternal and child care!

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