Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cash for Clunkers...the only stimulus program that works!

I have recently been reading and hearing through the newspapers and media about the tremendous success of the "Cash for Clunkers" program from our Federal Government. It appears to be so tremendously successful that the initial one BILLION dollars of funding is nearly depleted. Yesterday I stopped at a local Toyota Dealer to ask about the new Prius (fuel efficient hybrid). He told me he had none to show me, new or used! I asked if this is because of the "Cash for Clunkers" to which he replied "absolutely!" The Prius will give a qualified buyer the maximum $4500 tax credit. Now the Feds wants (US House has already approved), the US Senate to approve an additional 2 BILLION dollars to keep the program running through the end of '09. I believe they should.

Well its a good thing something is working because most of the rest of the 1 TRILLION+ dollar stimulus package is NOT. As I listened and watched the discussions of how much and where the money should be spent before the Stimulus bill was passed, I noticed the number of dollars for infrastructure keep falling. The initial discussion was in the neighborhood of 1.5 TRILLION, but ultimately that fell to about 750 BILLION. That would seem to be a lot of money but compared to what Departments of Transportation spend annually, its a rather modest amount.

Take the Ohio Department of Transportation for example. Ohio has one of the largest interstate systems in the Nation and the second largest number of bridges (both county and state). ODOT's annual construction budget is in the neighborhood of 1.5 BILLION dollars. ODOT received approximately 900 MILLION in stimulus money, a little more than half of what it spends anyway.

Because the funds were earmarked for "shovel ready" projects and because ODOT had very few projects that qualify as "shovel ready" much of the additional money was spent on bridges that were NOT in the worst shape and for repaving roadways that will ultimately need further work in just a few years. Not really rebuilding America's "crumbling infrastructure" as the President called for.

The vast majority of the Stimulus money went to bail out broke state governments. While that did keep many government employees and programs working it did nothing to "Stimulate" the economy. At best it kept things from getting worse.

I could go on and on as to why the Federal Government simply cannot do anything fast. One example is again with building roads. I read about a simple project in Indiana extending a highway whose construction stopped halfway before its ending point. The second half of the project was set to sell in the spring of this year. Even though the roadway was designed and the right-of-way purchased, the local authorities noted that due to the fact they were spending "FederalStimulus money" on the project, it had to be reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration and now due to "paperwork" it will not sell until 2010! Our government is its own biggest problem! Taxing people then giving it back again is extremely inefficient and wasteful.

If we are to get through this terrible recession and continue to succeed as a Nation we must insist on a smaller NOT larger government. Big Government is well intentioned but by design not able to be proactive or even reactive to major problems. According to Thomas Jefferson.."the government is best which governs the least..." I think he knew what he was talking about.

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