Last week the United States celebrated an anniversary, on February 17, 2009 President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 also known as Porkulus Maximus the progressive bill which was promised to keep unemployment under 8% but did nothing but make $800 billion dollars disappear into a Keynesian black hole only to reappear as a new unsightly layer of blubber weighing down our national debt.
What has happened in the intervening two years? Unemployment grew to over 10% and now stands at 9% still higher than the promised 8% maximum.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the United States expanded 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 over the previous quarter, not exactly a boom period especially when you consider that fourth quarter is the Christmas buying season and the White House’s GDP growth projection for the rest of 2011 a paltry 2.7%.
The numbers show the pork-laden stimulus created by the President and his progressive army did not help the economy as promised. I don’t want to give the impression that the stimulus bill has been a total failure; it has raised the art of pork barrel so foolish projects to a new level. In fact many of the projects paid for by this Keynesian incubus were, that if they were done with other people’s money, rather than our tax dollars, they would be comical.
For the anniversary of the signing of the stimulus, it might be appropriate to look at the worst of the worst, the most reckless, irresponsible, and inane, let’s face it the most stupid examples of how our government spent $800 billion dollars, while leaving our nation’s economy on life support.
10) Buses They Don’t Need: The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) provided the New Hampshire Department of Transportation with $2 million in stimulus money to buy four buses. While the state will own them, the buses will be used by two commuter service bus companies, Boston Express and C&J Trailways. C&J Trailways will use the new buses to replace two older buses in their fleet, but will make no new hires. The other two buses will be used by Boston Express to add additional bus service
“These funds are creating jobs now while investing in the future of our transit systems,” Administrator Peter Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) said in Friday’s news release. “The public’s demand for transit service continues to grow, and these dollars will help meet that need.”
That sounds nice. But it isn’t true.
Two of the buses will replace C&J buses currently in service on I-95. C&J President Jim Jalbert confirmed to us in an interview Friday that his company would make no new hires in relation to receiving those buses.
The other two buses will be used by Boston Express to add new service. The number of new jobs created? “As many as four or five,” Jalbert said. They will all be bus drivers.
Two million dollars to create “four or five” bus-driver jobs? That’s as much as $500,000 per job.”
Wow four –five jobs created at one half of a million per, and people ask why porkulus didn’t work?
9) Something to Whine About– Paying for Work Already Done? Crossing Vineyard in Bucks County, Pennsylvania received a $25,000 stimulus grant to help build a 3,000 square foot energy-efficient building. The new building will feature a geothermal energy system, energy efficient lighting with timers and sensors, and the ability to build solar panels on the building.
This project might have made sense if it didn’t pay for work already done. Crossing had already broken ground on the new building in December of 2008, several months before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed. They were doing the work without the government hand-hand out. The year before, in 2007, the owners installed solar power at the winery. That year they also started composting the fruit pulp waste at the winery.
This was not a stimulus project it was more of a gift from the public treasury.
8) The “America Sucks” Puppet Show: Every year the very “blue state” of Minnesota host the Mayday parade put on by In The Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOTB). The parade, which includes artists that advocate for socially progressive causes such as the elimination of things such as fossil fuels and capitalism.
In 2009 the group described its May Day celebration this way:
‘Our theme this year celebrates the merging of the red and green energies of the world. We cheer on the great merging of the human social justice movements with the environmental movements to remember humans as responsible relatives of the earth.
As we experience the failure of our economic systems built on debt, consumer waste, the theft and sickening of earth resources, we gather to rebuild an economic system that protects and sustains our Earth as a “Common Treasury for All.”’
The theatre derives its name from a quote popularized by Che Guevara, who in a thinly-veiled reference to the United States said, “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all you live in the heart of the beast.”‖ HOTB has received a $25,000 stimulus grant to help preserve one job, so it can continue bashing the United States.
One of the great things about this country is that groups such as the HOTB have every right to produce puppet shows that say just about anything the producers want it to say. But there is nothing in the constitution that says the federal government must fund their freedom of speech.
7) Highway Signs Bragging about the Stimulus: 42 States Spent a total of $1.3 million Some states have chosen to use all of their transportation stimulus money on real projects like roads and bridges. Others have chosen to spend a great deal of their grants on signs. The state of Ohio spent almost $1 million on stimulus signs for road projects with Pennsylvania spending $140,000 so they could alert taxpayers where their stimulus dollars went, said a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation. Estimates are between $2,000 to $3,000 to supply, install and remove signs for all 365 Ohio projects. My home state of New York spent nearly $100,000 on highway signs until it was shamed into halting its plans to purchase $900,000 more in signs.
The use of signs was strongly encouraged by the people in Obama’s Federal Highway Administration.
“We think the signs promote transparency and accountability — so taxpayers can know where their money is being spent and on what,” said Jill Zuckman, the Department of Transportation’s director for public affairs. “But the important thing is that the projects be sound, well run and job creating.”
Obviously these signs were a way for the administration to try to sell an unpopular stimulus plan to the public and another unnecessary use of funds.
6) Studying the Icelandic Arctic Environment in the Viking Age: The University of Massachusetts-Boston received an almost $95,000 stimulus grant to count pollen grains collected from farms in Iceland and allowed researchers to continue studying the role the arctic environment played in the evolution of civic life during the Viking Age.
No, really this is not made up.
Researchers say they will compare the environmental history of successful large farmsteads against small, poor and sometimes unsuccessful farmsteads to answer basic questions about the intersecting roles of landscape change, farm production, and political economy in the early history of Iceland.
“UMass Boston said stimulus money from the National Science Foundation created a job for a graduate assistant to help count pollen grains collected from farms in Iceland and allowed researchers to continue studying the role the arctic environment played in the evolution of civic life during the Viking Age.
Dana Topousis, a spokeswoman for the foundation, said 80 percent of the stimulus grants it oversaw went to previously received proposals that met typical requirements and were highly rated by merit review panels. The foundation did not set additional stipulations, but gave priority to applications that included new researchers.
Topousis said the Viking research was “reviewed by peers and determined to be a grant worth awarding.’’
Maybe it’s me, after all pollen makes me sneeze, but it seems as if that money would have been better served to pay for a graduate student to identify low-priority projects like this one so they could be defunded.
5) It’s Not a Mall-It’s a Ghost Town: One local paper called it “the incredible shrinking mall” But that didn’t stop Mayor Tom Beehan, of Oak Ridge, Tennessee from supporting a $5 million dollar grant to turn a struggling shopping mall into a struggling green shopping mall.
Despite the fact that the mall has few shoppers and fewer stores, the Department of Energy has announced an award for up to $5 million to install a geothermal energy system capable of heating the almost empty Oak Ridge Mall.
The owners of Oak Ridge City Center are hoping the expected reductions in energy usage, and subsequent heating bills, will lure potential new tenants. Just last fall, Oak Ridge city councilwoman Ellen Smith, who despite supporting the project, noted that a new geothermal HVAC system is ―not much use at a shopping center unless the center has some commercial tenants.
Previous efforts to revitalize the mall were unsuccessful after developers had to return federal funds to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for failing to make any visible progress on a development plan for the mall.
As far back as 1997, the local newspaper, The Oak Ridger, reported that, ―It is no secret that the mall has been and is in trouble. In recent years, local residents in Oak Ridge have seen the mall property sit quietly as investors failed to improve it.
“The reason Oak Ridge mall died was very simple. Just as the finishing touches were placed on the strip-to-mall conversion, the Pelissippi Parkway was completed, connecting Oak Ridge to west Knoxville, making what used to be a 45 minute trip into about 10 minutes. From the Oak Ridge mall parking lot, you can be at West Town Mall, Knoxville’s top shopping area, in less than 15 minutes. Just as it was being completed to fill a need, the need was gone.”
The $5 million dollar grant is a great example of how our government likes to throw good money after bad, in this case by ignoring a key part of what makes capitalism work, allowing the market to pick the winners. Here the Obama administration picked and it was a sorry loser.
4) Spending $133 Million Dollars to Renovate a Federal Office Building When They Could Have Built a New One for the Same Price.
The largest stimulus project in the state of Oregon is a $133 million makeover for the federal building in downtown Portland. The money will go toward greening the Edith Green/Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in the hope of making it a model for energy efficient government offices in the Northwest. For that same $133 million, they could have created more jobs by tearing down the old building and putting up a new one
In 2007, a new federal building was constructed in downtown San Francisco with similar state-of-the-art energy efficiency features for $144 million, just 11 million more that the Portland Project. The San Francisco building cost more because it’s larger, with 100,000 square feet of useable space
It is not yet clear how all of the $133 million will be spent. For now, agency officials expect to construct a type of vegetative skin, made of plants, on the exterior of the building, to help with heating and cooling costs. Vegetative facades on buildings, however, are a little studied field according to some experts.
3) Repave this Georgia Again
Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) contractors are using stimulus funds to repave a busy street in Atlanta—part of which was repaved just two years ago.
“The two-block stretch, a part of Ralph David Abernathy that falls between Lee Street and Joseph Lowery Boulevard, was completely re-paved “curb to curb” following sewer work that ended in 2007, said Janet Ward, a city spokeswoman. Since then, it seemed to have held up fine, Rebecca Serna, a local bicyclist said.
This summer, state contractor crews tore it up again as part of a larger project. The two blocks happen to be included in a 1.1 mile project on Ralph David Abernathy that the Georgia Department of Transportation re-paved with $490,784 in federal stimulus money, between Cascade Avenue and West Whitehall Street.
The city’s work on Abernathy was a huge “open-cut” job that required a complete re-paving, Ward said.”
MS Serna added that the existing road is pretty much the smoothest ride in town right now, “I don‘t know if it‘s necessary, but it‘s nice.”
I assume that this project was authorized by the Federal Department of Redundancy Department.
2) Teaching African Men To Wash Their Manhood– The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), spent $823,200 of economic stimulus funds in 2009 on a study by a UCLA research team to teach uncircumcised African men how to wash their genitals after having sex.
The genitalia-washing program is part of a larger $12-million UCLA study examining how to better encourage Africans to undergo voluntary HIV testing and counseling – however, only the penis-washing study received money from the 2009 economic stimulus law. The washing portion of the study is set to end in 2011.
“NIH Announces the Availability of Recovery Act Funds for Competitive Revision Applications,” the grant abstract states. “We propose to evaluate the feasibility of a post-coital genital hygiene study among men unwilling to be circumcised in Orange Farm, South Africa.”
The reason for the “washing classes” is that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection, but researchers have been unsuccessful in convincing most adult African men to undergo circumcision. Personally I can understand, my circumcision happened when I was eight days old and afterward I couldn’t walk for more than a year. The UCLA program is designed to determine whether researchers can develop an after-sex genitalia-washing they can teach uncircumcised African men to follow.
While the goal of this program, reducing HIV in Africa is noble, it certainly is not the best use of spending by a government floundering under tons of debt.
1) They Really Had to Research This? Are female college students more likely to have casual sex if they have had a few drinks? The National Institute of Health (NIH) used stimulus funds to pay for a Two-year-long $219,000 study to track female college students for a year to determine whether young women are more likely to “hookup” after drinking alcohol, proving that no one at the NIH ever went to college. Researchers recruited 500 female students at Syracuse University prior to their first year of college and contact them monthly over the course of a year to document sexual hookups, noting when there is alcohol involved.
There’s a bit more to it according to an interview of the professors involved with the study conducted for the Sean Hannity Show:
“CROWDER: The Women’s Health Project, what spurred this? Why is it so important to study this right now?
DR. MICHAEL CAREY, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: We know from national surveys that approximately one in four college-aged women have a sexually transmitted disease. One in five have a history of sexual assault. It’s important to understand and go behind these numbers a little bit more to understand the causes and the consequences and to provide information to young women so that they can make responsible choices.
KATE CAREY, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: We’re looking at a wide range of health risk behaviors, health behaviors such as alcohol use, smoking, sleep quality, diet and exercise, as well as sexual behaviors. And all of these do tend to evolve together in the young adult years.
And so, we’re eager to see what our data tell us in terms of the possibilities for prevention programming.”
OK we get all that, but did they really have to spend $219,000 to see if young women are more likely to have casual sex if they are drunk. All they had to do is ask a few young women or the young men who are buying them the drinks. Oh and before they spend money to find out that the same thing is true of guys—yes it’s true.
These aren’t all of the reckless stimulus projects, nor are they the most expensive just my “favorites.” These projects are systematic of the lack of fiduciary responsibility taken by our federal government. Some of them would be stupid at any time, others are justifiable programs done at the wrong time or the wrong way.
The progressives who still run our executive branch and at least one of the legislative arms forget the basic fact that the money in their budgets belong to the people of this country and is not just a tool for them to seek reelection with haphazard spending in their home districts.