If you thought the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus program was meant to provide one big jolt to the economy, you’ve got it all wrong, Vice President Joe Biden says.
Tales from the Trail
Be careful this week about buying wholeheartedy into any G20-related spin about supposedly savvy, free-spending Britain and America doing more to combat the world economic crisis than supposedly stubborn, overly cautious Germany and France. The actual figures show it is much more complex than that.
Vice President Joe Biden had some pointed advice Wednesday for state, county and city officials seeking guidance on spending the $787 billion in economic stimulus money approved by the U.S. Congress — don’t use it on stupid ideas.
“What is legal, what is authorized, may not be a good thing to do,” the vice president told dozens of local officials gathered for a White House conference.
“So guys, no swimming pools, no tennis courts, no golf courses, no Frisbee parks,” Biden said, even if officials can document that the project will create jobs quickly, generate revenue and keep people working over the longer term.
“The answer is: No. No. No,” he said. “It’s got to pass the smell test folks.”
Then he gave the warning some teeth.
“Because of the rules, the president and I can’t stop you from doing some things. But I’ll show up in your city and say, ‘This is a stupid idea,'” Biden warned, drawing laughs.
“I’m serious. I’m absolutely serious,” he said. “Every single dollar of this money has to be used … in a way that is actually producing or keeping jobs from being lost and perceptually makes sense.”
Biden has reason for concern. The administration has been promising to be open and transparent about how the money is spent, with projects being posted on a website where they can be tracked by anyone with an interest, from journalists and bloggers to folks who live down the street from the work.
“We have to get this right,” Biden said. “We have got to demonstrate to the American public that we can husband their money and their investments in a way that in fact makes sense to them. This can’t be govenment as usual.”
Local officials attending the event said they appreciated being consulted by the White House so early in the process and liked the high level of coordination among government departments.
Brian Reilly, the economic development commissioner for Buffalo, New York, said it was unusual to have the departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development all talking together with local communities.
“This is fantastic at the city level because we are the place where all of those agencies come together. In the past they haven’t always been coordinated,” he said.
“By this type of early collaboration,” Reilly added, “we’re going to see a different kind of service delivery and different kinds of outcomes at the local level.”
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Take note politicians. Michael Phelps might have some pointers for you.
He won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, but swimmer Phelps sounded more like a politician than an athlete in a morning TV interview today — repeatedly admitting he had made mistakes but sidestepping any direct admission that he had smoked marijuana.
Watch out Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, New York and California would love those dollars you turn down from the $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
A few governors, namely Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, have all said that they may turn down some of the stimulus money for their states, particularly aid aimed at bolstering unemployment benefit programs.
“We can’t pay for the benefits already in the program, but to get the stimulus money, we’ve got to increase the program’s size and scale,” Sanford said on “Fox News Sunday”.
That has some other states hard hit by the deepening recession calling for the money to be sent their way, especially New York where Wall Street has been laying off workers by the thousands.
“If any governor — Democrat or Republican — leaves stimulus money on the table, then we respectfully request that funds be distributed to New York,” the state’s two Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, said in a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday.
Another New York lawmaker, Representative Anthony Weiner, plans to offer legislation that would redirect rejected stimulus funds to other states.
“If some governors decide to reject the money, 45 other states should be able to use it to create thousands of jobs. We have plenty of projects across the country that will put people to work and help achieve long term economic growth and stability,” Weiner said in a statement.