Stupid Stimulus Spending

Last week there was some uproar surrounding the use of stimulus money to create jobs in other countries, including in China. A handful of Senators are protesting the fact that many of the renewable energy jobs that the recovery money is creating are, in fact, overseas. Their argument is that stimulus money should only be used to create jobs here, in America.

That argument is nothing new. For months the White House has been claiming that we’d be way worse off without the stimulus and the Republicans are accusing that it hasn’t helped. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Recipients of stimulus money say they are currently funding the jobs of about 595,000 people. But the White House has also said that as many as two million jobs have been supported directly or indirectly by stimulus money.

“Republicans have questioned those numbers and pointed to the rise in the unemployment rate since Mr. Obama took office to bolster their case that the stimulus has failed to deliver on the administration’s promises.”

In a December LA Times articles it was pointed out that thanks to the $157.8 billion that had been awarded (up to that point) 640,320 jobs had been created. That means each job cost us $246,436. They also point out that, “Total compensation earned by the average payroll employee during October, on an annualized basis, was $59,867. If the government had simply used the funds awarded so far to pay for a year’s worth of labor, that would have paid for 2.6mn jobs!”

Of course, giving people jobs allows them to keep earning. Or does it? Around a third of the $787 billion stimulus budget has already been spent. Most of that money was spent maintaining social services (unemployment benefits, Medicaid, food stamps), government jobs, and providing tax cuts for workers. About 325,000 teachers and school staff got to keep their jobs—without having to raise state taxes—because of the stimulus. However, once the stimulus money runs out, jobs could be cut.  And what’s the point of that?

Even though good things have come from stimulus spending, there is still plenty of stupid crap the money has been wasted on—money that we are going to have to pay back. This week we’ve decided to put together a list of stupid things the stimulus money has been spent on. And, for the record, both Democrats and Republicans are at fault here. Wasting money on stupid projects is something both parties seem to excel at doing. Remember, all of this money will have to be paid back… with interest.

If no one’s in a mall, do they notice the geothermal energy?

  • $5 million to create a geothermal energy system for the Oak Ridge City Center shopping mall in Oak Ridge, Tenn. From TheHill.com, “The main problem, says Republicans, is the fact the mall has been losing tenants for years and is mostly empty.”
  • $9.38 million to renovate a century-old train depot in Lancaster County, Pa., that has not been used for three decades

Puppet terror!

  • $100,000 for socially conscious puppet shows in Minnesota
  • $2 million to build a replica railroad tourist attraction in Carson City, Nevada
  • $462,000 to purchase 22 concrete toilets for use in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri
  • $3.1 million to transform a canal barge into a floating museum that will travel the Erie Canal in New York

Why did the turtle cross the road?

  • $3.4 million to create an underground turtle tunnel, or eco-passage, in Lake Jackson, Florida. We love turtles and don’t want them to get smashed by traffic. However, when your government spending plan involves jokes like, “Why did the turtle cross the road? To get more stimulus money,” you can pretty much guess there’s a problem.
  • $1 million to study the health effects of environmentally friendly public housing on 300 people in Chicago. I bet those 300 people would rather split the million and get out of public housing all together.
  • $983,952 for street beautification in Ann Arbor, Mich., including decorative lighting, trees, benches and bike paths
  • $1 million for Portland, Ore., to replace 100 aging bike lockers and build a garage that would house 250 bicycles. I think Portland’s bike programs are fantastic. I also think that it is possible to find cheaper ways to store bicycles.
  • $700,000 to Oregon crab fishermen to help recover lost crab post. You would think for that much money they could just go buy new ones.
  • $1.5 billion for a Carbon Capturing Contest
  • $300,000 for a GPS-equipped helicopter to hunt for radioactive rabbit droppings at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state

Reefer madness

  • SUNY Buffalo received $390,000 to study young adults who drink malt liquor and smoke marijuana. Of course if they had used that money to pay for more kids to go to school they would have less people to study.
  • Washington State University got $148,438 to analyze the use of marijuana in conjunction with medications like morphine. Both of these studies will probably one day be used in the fight for marijuana decriminalization.

This article paid for by stimulus money.

  • In rural Wisconsin, 37 little-used bridges are receiving $15.8 million in stimulus funds. According to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, “The 37 bridges average 568 vehicles a day.”  Some of these bridges see less than ten cars a day.
  • Montana received $2.2 million to install skylights in their state-run liquor warehouse.
  • The $800,000 given to John Murtha Airport to repave a back runway has pissed off many, many people—myself included. This airport services a whopping 20 passengers a day and has, over the past decade, already received millions in federal funds. Representative John Murtha treats this as his private airport and has spared no expense, too bad the money isn’t his but ours.
  • $1 million was given to a Chicago dinner cruise company to “combat terrorism”
  • The Coast Guard gets $572 million to create 1,235 new jobs. This comes to $460,000 per job. 
  • Here are two things that should have been paid for privately: $30 million for a spring training baseball complex for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies and $11 million for Microsoft to build a bridge connecting its two headquarter campuses in Redmond, Wash., which are separated by a highway. Instead of taking our money, why isn’t Bill Gates helping with a solution?
  • $1.15 million to install a guardrail for a persistently dry lake bed in Guymon, Okla.
  • $2.5 million in stimulus checks sent to the deceased
  • $6 million for a snow-making facility in Duluth, Minn.
  • And, of course, every project gets its own $300 road sign claiming: “This project was paid for by stimulus money.”

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