You will hear that “the Obama stimulus plan” isn’t working. And there’s some truth to that. But it’s not the President’s fault. In America’s system of government, it’s a wonder anything works. Nothing is simple. Nothing is direct. Everything is subject to the pressures of lobbyists and the demands of multiple layers of authority.
One reason for the stimulus plan’s failure to produce expected results is that instead of the money going directly to federal projects, much of it is being distributed through state governments. And you know some of those states are run by Republicans who want nothing more than to see the plan fail. Besides, the states are broke because of the recession, and some of them are reportedly diverting the stimulus money to shore up their tottering budgets. The result: no shovels in the dirt.
Furthermore, to get the $789 billion package through Congress, a multitude of pet projects had to be accommodated. The administration had its hands full trying to clean out some of them. Here’s an excerpt from a recent Time Magazine article:
A plan for military-cemetery headstone-straightening was scrapped, as was a request for a $10,000 refrigerator to house fish sperm in South Dakota. Gone too was $7 million for Interior Department aircraft to study bird migration. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood persuaded the governor of Ohio to redirect $57 million for future road-project planning to immediate construction (see photo at right). Cities and states were told to stay away from swimming-pool construction and anything with the word golf in it — Frisbee golf, clock golf, minigolf.
Personally, if I were a member of Congress, I would have voted for the golf projects. At least, old fogies like me get exercise and fresh air from playing golf. But I would be wrong. A stimulus package should fund projects that can be implemented immediately, create a lot of jobs and pay future dividends – the sooner the better… Projects like upgrading the nation’s power grid.
Here’s what the Daily Tech web site had to say recently about lagging efforts to develop alternative energy in America:
A key problem, according to recent reports is location. There’s plentiful, free land that’s an ideal spot for alternative energy sources. From mountainsides getting gusty winds to sunny swatches of desert, there are plenty of possibilities. Better yet, many of these areas have relatively low wildlife and little human habitation, eliminating key concerns. However, one critical problem is crippling regions and slowing expansion according to the New York Times – the aging power grid.
So why is the aging power grid still standing? With all those billions available you would think thousands upon thousands of new windmills and solar panels would be humming by now, transmitting zillions of killowatts over a brand new transmission grid. Or at least there would be visible progress on a project to make that happen. But, so far, all is silent on that front.
Even T. Boone Pickens seems to be losing his enthusiasm for wind power because of problems in getting the product to the consumer. The legendary Texas oilman has abandoned a plan to build the world’s largest wind farm in the Panhandle, and instead is opting for a handful of smaller wind farms around the Midwest.
The stimulus package includes $61.3 billion for energy programs across the nation. But where’s the power grid? According to the Los Angeles Times, “the blueprints and, in many cases, the authority don’t exist to lay miles of high-speed rail lines or to build a sprawling web of power lines to create a truly national electric grid.”
But there’s hope on the horizon. The stimulus package included $4.5 billion for research and development, pilot projects and federal matching funds to modernize the electricity grid. And some sharp entrepreneurs are gearing up to take advantage of this program. But the results won’t be immediate.
Meanwhile, we have to be content with weather-stripping federal buildings in Washington.
Of course, we voters are supposed to get some of it, too. But it’s not that easy. Here’s a personal example.
The 21-year-old air conditioning unit in our home died a peaceful death last week. With all the talk about encouraging homeowners to save energy, you would think the government would be glad to help us get a new state-of-the-art unit. And the government would. If we tore out the much newer air handler and still-good copper tubing (and whatever else is up in the attic) and replaced the whole shebang. That meant coming up with more than four grand. We would get a portion of the money back – but not for months, as it would come as a tax credit. So we spent $2,200 on a new air conditioning unit, which works just fine. No tax break.
The planet will just have to get along somehow with our inefficient air conditioning system. And the economy will have to do without that extra two grand the government was expecting us to spend.