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
With President Barack Obama off in Italy during a weeklong diplomatic foray, Vice President Joseph Biden has the stage on Wednesday for an announcement of the administration’s agreement with the hospital industry for $155 billion in savings over a decade to help pay for a planned healthcare overhaul.
With Congress gone this week and President Barack Obama out of town for most of today, Washington turns to its two traditional inside-the-Beltway sporting events: handicapping a Supreme Court nominee’s chances of confirmation, and watching the nerve-wracking finals of the National Spelling Bee.
After the Obama team’s big announcement on health care and an even bigger deficit, now comes the hard part — actually sitting down and figuring out how much it’s going to cost, and how to make it cost less. President Barack Obama’s first public appearance today is a round-table discussion with business leaders on cutting employer health care costs.
Vice President Joe Biden, in the doghouse for saying he would advise his family against flying or taking the subway because of the new flu strain, will be taking a trip to Europe in a couple weeks — but then again he probably doesn’t have to worry too much since he has his own plane.
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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One decent laugh line in President Barack Obama’s address to Congress had to do with Vice President Joe Biden and his new assignment in the financial crisis. Obama gave Biden the task of overseeing the recovery process. The Capitol Hill audience broke up when the president announced Biden’s new task: