Are there any adults left in our government? What passes for politics these days in Washington reminds me of what happens when mom and dad go away on vacation and leave their home in the care of their 18 year old son. It’s party time!
The House passed its $819 billion “stimulus” package. Now it’s over to the Senate. The Senate, noting all the pork, and public outcry, recoiled in horror and immediately began setting about to “fix” the package. So here we are, a week or so into the process, and now we have a Senate bill that purports to have cut $130 billion – but now totals $930 billion in spending. Looks like our senators not only believe we are stupid, but we can’t tell addition from subtraction either.
Is there anything they are unwilling to spend money on? Well, yes. The President recently told the Pentagon to cut their budget by $50 billion. Apparently there is a lot of wasteful spending going on in that 5-sided building on the Potomac. Things like the F-22, F-35, modernization of our military hardware, and replacement of equipment that has worn out during the past 8 years we have been fighting the Global War on Terror.
I guess that spending money on STD prevention constitutes “stimulus” but spending money on our nation’s defense does not. We’ll just retrain those in the defense industry who lose their jobs as social workers, and move on.
So what sort of vital stimulus spending are we talking about? Let’s see some of the highlights
Title V – Energy and Water
- $250,000,000 to the Army Corps of Engineers for previously funded projects or activities having to do with the Mississippi River and Tributaries. To be used to accelerate existing contracts or fully fund project elements and contracts for such elements in a time period of 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, with preference to projects and activities that are labor intensive
- $2.225 billion to the Corps of Engineers for Operation and Maintenance with the same stipulations as above.
- $500 million for water reclamation and reuse projects
- $4.5 billion for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability
- $1 billion for the Advanced Battery Loan Guarantee Program (of which $10 million is set aside for administrative expenses in carrying out the guaranteed loan program – gotta make sure those folks stay employed!)
- $8 billion for the Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program
- $2.4 billion for necessary expenses to demonstrate carbon capture and sequestration technologies
- $2 billion for “Science”; $100 million of which (minimum) is earmarked for advanced scientific computing
- $500 million for Defense Environmental Cleanup – at least it gets it out of the defense budget…
- An amendment to Title III (Borrowing Authority) of the Hoover Power Plant Act of 1984. Not being familiar with that act, I am not sure exactly what changed, but this section makes available large sums of money (not to exceed $3.25 billion in outstanding balance at any one time) to the Western Area Power Administration, empowering them to borrow funds from the Treasury without further appropriation and without fiscal year limitation. It’s quite lengthy (page 68-74) and has a lot in it.
Title VI – Financial Services and General Government
- $7.7 billion to be deposited in the Federal Buildings Fund for real property activities for construction, repair, and alterations of Federal buildings and border facilities and land ports of entry
- $600 million to acquire alternative fuel vehicles and plug-in hybrids for the federal government
- $426 million for small business loans. I guess small business gets small bucks. And despite the small amount, there are pages of rules on how it is to be spent; whereas the large amounts given to the government specify very little.
Title VII – Homeland Security
- $100 million for salaries and expenses relating to non-intrusive detection technology to be deployed at sea ports of entry
- $150 million to repair and construct inspection facilities at land border ports of entry
- $500 million to purchase and install explosive detection systems and emerging checkpoint technologies
- $150 million for alteration or removal of obstructive bridges (to the Coast Guard)
- $200 million for Emergency Food and Shelter
Title VIII – Interior and Environment
- $325 million to the Bureau of Land Management for priority road, bridge, and trail repair
- $300 million to the Fish and Wildlife Service for priority road and bridge repair and replacement, and critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects on National Wildlife Refuges, National Fish Hatcheries and other service properties
- $1.7 billion to the National Park Service for projects to address critical deferred maintenance needs within the National Park System including roads, bridges and trails and other critical infrastructure projects. (These funds can be transferred to Operation of the National Park System if necessary)
- $200 million for construction, improvements, repair, or replacement of facilities related to the revitalization of National Park Service assets on the National Mall in Washington DC
- $200 million to the United States Geological Survey for repair and restoration of facilities; equipment replacement and upgrades including stream gages and seismic and volcano monitoring systems; national map activities; and other critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects
- $500 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for priority repair and replacement of schools, detention centers, roads and bridges, employee housing and critical deferred maintenance projects
- $800 million to the Hazardous Substance Superfund to be used for the superfund remedial program
- $50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts, to be distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the non-profit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn
- I’m going to quit for now on Title VIII. There is quite a bit more, but I think you get the idea.
Title IX – Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
- $80 million for the enforcement of worker protection laws and regulations, oversight, and coordination activities related to the infrastructure and unemployment insurance investments in this Act
- $300 million for the construction, rehabilitation and acquisition of Job Corps Centers
- $500 million in grants to health centers authorized under section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (half of which shall not be available until 1 October 2009)
- $1 billion for repair and renovation of health centers, and for acquisition of health information technology systems
- $88 million for fit-out and other costs related to moving into a facility for Public Health Service agencies and other components of the Department of Health and Human Services
- $600 million to train nurses and primary care physicians and dentists (half of which will not be available until 1 October 2009)
- $462 million for equipment, construction and renovation of facilities for the Centers for Disease Control
- $1.5 billion to the National Institutes of Health for grants or contracts to renovate or repair existing non-Federal research facilities, with an additional $1.5 billion to the Office of the Director.
- $700 million for Comparative effectiveness research
- $3 billion to HHS for a Prevention and Wellness Fund, to be spent as follows
- Not less than $954 million to be used to carry out the immunization program authorized by section 371(a), (j), and (k)(1) of the Public Health Service Act. Of this, $649,900,000 will not be available until 1 Oct 2009.
- Not less than $296 million to carry out Part A of title XIX of the Public Health Service Act ($148 million not available until 1 Oct 2009)
- Not less than $545 million to carry out chronic disease, health promotion, and genomics programs
- Not less than $335 million set aside as an additional amount to carry out domestic HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, sexually-transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis prevention programs
- Not less than $60 million to carry out environmental health programs
- Not less than $50 million to carry out injury prevention and control programs
- Not less than #30 million for public health workforce development activities
- Not less than $40 million for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to carry out research activities within the National Occupational Research Agenda
- Not less than $40 million for the National Center for Health Statistics
- Etc, etc, etc – and we haven’t even touched on the Education section. (pages 157-195)
Title X – Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
- $920 million for Military Construction
- $600 million for training and recruit troop housing
- $220 million for permanent party troop housing
- $100 million for child development centers
- $350 million for Navy and Marine Corp Military Construction
- $170 million for sailor and marine housing
- $180 million for child development centers
- $280 million for Air Force Military Construction
- $200 million for airmen housing
- $80 million for child development centers
- $3.75 billion for Defense Wide Military Construction for hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers
- $140 million for Army National Guard Military Construction – unspecified purpose
- $70 million for Air National Guard Military Construction – unspecified purpose
- $100 million for Army Reserve Military Construction – unspecified purpose
- $30 million for Navy Reserve Military Construction – unspecified purpose
- $60 million for Air Force Reserve Military Construction – unspecified purpose
- $950 million for Veterans Health Administration for non-recurring maintenance, including energy projects at VA Medical Facilities
- $50 million for National Cemetery Administration for monument and memorial repairs
- And, since we are spending money and everyone else gets a piece, $300 million to be deposited into the Department of Defense Base Closure Account 1990 piggy bank
Title XI – Department of State
- $276 million for the Capital Investment Fund supporting the design and construction of a backup information management facility in the United States to support mission-critical operations and projects, and to carry out the Department of State’s responsibilities under the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative
- $224 million for the water quality program to meet immediate repair and rehabilitation requirements on the border with Mexico
Title XII – Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development
Title XIII – State Fiscal Stabilization Fund
- $3 billion in Grants-in-Aid for Airports – to be used for discretionary projects by the Secretary of Transportation
- $30 billion to the Federal Highway Administration for Highway Infrastructure Investment
- $300 million for Indian reservation roads
- $250 million for park roads and parkways
- $20 million for highway surface transportation and technology training
- $20 million for disadvantaged business enterprises bonding assistance (distributed among the States, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands according to some arcane formula that takes pages to explain. I am not sure if this just applies to this 20 million or the entire $30 billion dollar package)
- $300 million for Capital Assistance for Intercity Passenger Rail Service
- $800 million to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) for Capital and Debt Service Grants – for repair, rehabilitation, or upgrade of railroad assets or infrastructure, NOT to subsidize the operating losses of Amtrak
- $6 billion for transit capital assistance grants
- $2 billion for capital expenditures for Fixed Guideway Infrastructure Investment (whatever that is)
- $1 billion for Capital Investment Grants, references various sections of the United States Code which I did not look up
- $5 billion for Public and Indian Housing
- $100 million for Lead Hazard Reduction pursuant to the Healthy Homes Initiative, Operation Lead Elimination Action Plan (LEAP) or the Lead Technical Studies program
- Yada, Yada, Yada thru page 237
- $79 billion for necessary expenses for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (includes all 50 states, District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico), administered by the Department of Education of which
- $39.5 billion shall become available on 1 July 2009 and remain available through 30 Sep 2010
- $39.5 billion shall become available on 1 July 2010 and remain available through 30 Sep 2011
- Lots of rules and references. Guess you gotta be a staffer or policy wonk. I doubt many representatives or senators have waded thru all of this.
- For each fiscal year, the governor of each of the states receiving funds shall use at least 61 percent of the state’s allocation for the support of elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education. Guess that explains why the Secretary of Education is administering this fund.
- Up to $325 million can be reserved each year to establish an Innovation Fund which shall consist of academic achievement awards that recognize States, local educational agencies, or schools that meet the various specific requirements
Whew! That takes us through page 251; all of Division A of the bill. There is still Division B – Other Provisions to wade through, and another wearing 396 pages. We haven’t even covered the bulk of the legislation! I guess I may need a “Part 3” and perhaps a part 4, 5, 6, etc.
One thing I have noticed from going through all this is that there sure is a lot of money in this bill for the Federal Government. It seems to be a government renovation bill on top of everything else. I guess a lot of offices will get new furniture this year.
I guess, to be “fair”, I should mention that the stimulus package does contain money for defense, outside the defense budget. While we may not have the tools we need should we get into a major conflict with someone other than terrorists, it is comforting to know that the Pentagon will get:
- $4.5 billion for repair and modernization of Department of Defense facilities, restoration and modernization of Army barracks, and investment in the energy efficiency of Department of Defense facilities.
- $350,000,000 for research, development, test and evaluation programs for improvements in energy generation, transmission, regulation, use, and storage for military installations, military vehicles, and other military equipment.
That is all Title IV of the bill, labeled “Defense” contains. I guess the most important stimulus the military can have is to make sure we have energy efficient light fixtures installed and to see if we can’t maybe convert our main battle tanks to hybrid vehicles. Perhaps we can come up with the world’s first plug-in tank.
And don’t think for one minute that Congress is just throwing large sums of “pork” at the DoD to spend as they like. The money is very nicely divvied up, to the dollar, between all the branches of the military, including the guard and reserve, ensuring that the resulting pots are small enough to have little overall impact. Keep in mind that Congress knows best, and it is self-evident that those knuckle-draggers in the military would have little idea how to properly spend the money on their own.
Additionally, there are various sections of law inserted at various points, such as
- Title VII, Section 7002: Protection of Social Security Administration Programs
- Title VII, Section 7003: GAO Study of Basic Pilot Confirmation System
- Title VII, Section 7004: GAO Study of Effects of Basic Pilot Program on Small Entities
- Title IX, Section 9202: Investment in Health Information Technology
- Title XII, section 12002: FHA Loan Limits for 2009
- Title XII, section 12003: GSE Conforming Loan Limits for 2009
- Title XII, section 12004: FHA Reverse Mortgage Loan Limits for 2009
Both the Section 7003 and 7004 studies have to do with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
Ok, enough already. If you are still awake at this point, congratulations! We will take up from here later – if I can summon the enthusiasm…