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    Questions: Stimulate Me

    OK, so Obama's tough talking apparently worked.

    The administration got three moderate Republican senators to agree to support the stimulus package and prevent a filibuster. In return, some $100 billion in spending from the package was removed while some Republican proposals for tax cuts and credits were adopted (most notably a $15,000 credit for homebuyers).

    Of course, the compromise has pissed off some politicians on the left, but likely not enough to jeopardize a Yea vote.  The bill will pass the Senate soon, and then move to a committee where the House and Senate will negotiate on the final bill.

    I just spent about an hour or so scanning through the revised stimulus bill, all 736 pages, and there's plenty of good news (assuming you like the idea of the government spending $827 billion to try and stimulate the economy).

    Despite the compromises, this is still clearly a Democratic bill. While there is certainly a fair amount of money going to the military and national security, the biggest sums are reserved for the areas that most liberals care about - education, health care, environment and green technology development, public housing and the homeless, public transit and other infrastructure.

    For me, the good news is that the bill is pretty explicit about how the government will track the effectiveness of the money being spent, including the creation of a consumer-facing Web site that will have great detail on every dollar (aside from potential national security issues). This is all hugely important because if I were someone without scruples, I'd be reading through this bill and just thinking about all the ways I could get my share of what could easily become a fraud-ridden boondoggle.

    So what's the questions part of this column, you ask? Well, in the comment section, I am going to list two (or more) of the programs or projects that are currently slated to receive more than $1 billion in government money, and I want you to tell me which one you think is more important and why? Any you'd get rid of?? (This is not a comprehensive list of the billion-dollar initiatives, and there were literally dozens more falling just short of ten figures).



    1) $1.2 billion for aviation security vs. $1.2 billion for youth activities (incl. summer employment, state grants) vs $1.5 bln for state and local law enforcement?

    Youth activities.  Employs people and helps the children.  I just think the children need everything they can get espcially in the weak economic times that are coming.  Keep them out of gangs and off the streets.  Help to education the younger children.

    agreed. i think our airlines are fairly secure, and while terrorists can still get a lot of damage from a successful airplane attack, I kind of think they won't go there again for a while. probably a lot of easier targets. as far as state and law enforcement, i think u will get more bang for your buck by keeping the youth as busy as possible during these tougher times.

    This one is hard for me and I bet my answer will shock everybody who thinks I'm a total bleeding heart. I'm kind of shocking myself. But I have to go with state and local law enforcement. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. 

    Ah, yes.  Let's spend more money on "aviation security".  The TSA has been absolutely stellar.

    2) $1 billion for dislocated worker training vs $1 billion for Head Start?

    Head Start Head Start Head Start.  It does exactly what it says.  I had a friend that was trying to get a job in the local head start but they shut the program down.  I don't think my friend was qualified anyway but that is when I found out how much head start does for the children that attend. Head Start provides long term help to poor children.

    i wasn't aware. i thought head start was not very effective. training displaced workers is a very important aspect of making sure we focus on what we can do best and where we can add the most value, esp. when the economy recovers. but you're probably right - my girlfriend is teaching at a public school right now as part of her master's program (early education) and it is imperative we get to troubled or poorer kids early to make a difference.

    Worker training. Head Start can be handled in an education bill. This bill is about immediate relief and halting the current total meltdown.

    3) $2 billion for advanced battery grants (incl. vehicles) vs. $2 billion for high-speed rail corridor program?

    High Speed rail.  I'm not sure the battery problem can be solved quickly.  I think high speed rail will provide more energy savings quicker than the battery issue.

    agreed, tho im not sure if $2 billion is enough for a high-speed rail program. but i think the private market has all the economic incentive in the world to come up with new powerful batteries without additional government assistance - that isn't like alternative fuels where it will be very tough for any private company to subsidize development while fossil fuels are still so cheap. .

    High speed rail, even though it's not coming to a neighborhood near me for a long, long time.

    This is nuts easy. Batteries. Battery R & D can save us HUNDREDS of billions, vs building a one-off project.

    4)$2.25 billion for redevelopment of abandoned/foreclosed housing vs. $1.5 bln for homeless prevention?

    Redevelopment of abandoned housing can include some housing for homeless.  Did you hear that piece about the group that is putting homeless into the abandoned houses in some areas?  They are just putting them in there and the neighbors like it cause the house isn't empty.

    i think that's a great idea - putting the homeless in foreclosed/abandoned houses (though im not sure how fair that is either - to the family that got kicked out anyway), and i'm surprised neighbors like that (can't imagine it does much for the property values of a neigborhood - would think empty is better than occupied by people who can't afford the homes) .

    5) $1.35 billion for the National institute of Health vs. $1.2 billion for research at the National Science Foundation?

    National institute of Health just because.  I can see money going to either one.  Double funding for both would be my real choice!

    6) $13.5 billion for special education programs vs $13.869 in student financial assistance (don't ask me why some numbers are clearly round estimates and some seem to be computed to the nearest dollar) vs. $13.0 bln for elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (incl. school improvement)?

     Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965.  Collage aid can come in somewhere else as can special ed.  I wouldn't like to have to cut either of those two if I had to but you asked.  i want more money in public ed all over and I want money put into helping those schools figure out what is going on.  I swear some of those schools are out of control and something needs to happen.  Better teachers, smaller classes, SAFER classes.  Decent food for the children - honestly this business of schools being proud of the income they get from the soda machines is too much. 

    you'll be glad to know i think there is a fair amount of money in the bill for healthy school lunch programs.

    this is tough - deciding which is more important - special ed, public school, or college financial assistance. but if i have to choose, i'd go with college aid.

    i still think voucher programs are your best bet when it comes to elementary and high school education - let the private market run the schools, give the ones that get good results grants, give familes who can't afford private education vouchers so they can attend the best schools. if there are markets where private/religious schools do not operate, then you can have the government step in. the public school system has been a failure and we should realize that.

    I think vouchers are horrible. What do you do with the kids that can't get a voucher and then have to stay at a school that has just lost it's best students? It doesn't create a good learning environment. And I haven't seen much compelling evidence about the success of voucher programs. What's more, they're only viable in urban areas. In rural areas, where funding is equally criminal, there is only one school to choose from. What then? My pick is elementary ed. Because it will create/save jobs.

    i just think schooling should be run like health care (at least as i envision as it would be run in a universal system) - private providers, both for-profit and non-profit, with public funds to guarantee access and affordability and accountability. It's time we realize the current system does our children, and by extension our competitiveness as a nation, a disservice.


    I think that's a truly horrible idea. (sorry)

    It sounds nice, but when you put profit into the mix, education will not be the number one priority.

    Here's an arguement against school vouchers on the basis that they pose a threat to democracy.

    I wouldn't go straight to that argument, but again, I think vouchers are a bad idea. Essentially, they reward smart kids and screw everybody else.

    A novel approach would be to fund schools at levels where they could keep class size down and hire good teachers. If we did that, the administrators and teachers could focus on solving other problems like accountability. As it is, in some districts, they are overloaded with discipline issues and trying to get everybody to pass the standardized tests.

    This is reply to all the comments in this section but I'll stick it here.  In Delaware, and I'll say it first - the population is small - they let the people decide where to send thier kids (public school system).  You have to apply if you go out of your district, but you have to be okay to get accepted.  So, what happened was the districts realized if the kids left for another they lost funding.  They needed to improve to keep the kids there.  What started was a competition for the schools to be BETTER to ATTRACT more students and keep what they had in order to get the funding.  My brother had kids in a private school at the time, when he saw what was happening he put them in public schools.  Says you wouldn't believe the difference in just a couple of years. 

    I see the voucher issue forcing the same thing.  I say let the kids go anywhere they can.  And then when the bad schools don't get the funding they will straighten up.  They other thing that happens is the parents get involved more - where is my kid going to school?  And parents involved is good.  My dad, bless his heart, embarassed us by coming in and sitting in one of our classes at the begiining of every school year just to 'let the teacher know he cared'  and that was just the begining of his involvement.

    thank you, blue. my main point is we just need to accept the fact that our public school system is failing our children. plain and simple. ill-equipped and/or unqualified teachers, underfunded decrepit buildings, too-large classes, unruly student bodies. the list goes on and on, and i think the problem is generally getting worse.

    we need to start thinking outside the box in terms of how to fix it. free and open competition for students is certainly a great idea. i think we can all agree that universal education for our children should be a right, but we should leave all options open in terms of how best to provide that.

    yes, it becomes a sticky constitutional area if government is providing vouches for religious schools, but as long as there was clearly no discrimnation based on what religion was providing the education, i don't think it's a 'threat to our democracy' - you could argue the same about the tax breaks we give churches and synagogues because of their nono-profit status.

    7) $9 billion for federal building funds (including $6 bln to make them green) vs $9 billion for broadband expansion initiatives vs $8.4 bln for public transit vs. $6 bln for clean water?

    Broadband expansion.  Greening federal building is good as is public transport but both can get covered elsewhere.  I am going to be moving back to the farm in Delaware the end of March and only way I can get any connection is a wireless through the phone companies.  My nephew was amazed at the speed of his connection at college compared to what he had at home.  And it is not just the rural areas.  Inner city would benefit also.

    im going with public transit. i think it's a disgrace that the richest city in the world has a near third-world public transit system. ok, nyc may not be that bad, but there's no reason it can't be tons better, both in terms of reach/utility, operational effectiveness, and aesthetics.

    Federal building funds. Can you guess why? (Yeah, more jobs.)

    8) $17.5 billion for CDC screening and immunization vs. $14.398 for renewable energy development?

    Renewable energy.  The damage done by Bush et al just covers so much but the manical pursuit of oil was one of the top three.  I just keep thinking about Jimmy Carter putting solar panels on the White House.  It is TIME people NOW. 

    agreed. though i really do worry we are due for a health epidemic (either natural or terrorism) which we end up being woefully underprepared for.

    9) $4.5 bln for electricity delivery and energy reliability vs $5.5 for surface transportation (i.e. highway/bridges) vs. $5 billion for health information technology investments?

    Electricity delivery - I assume this will include the transport of energy from wind and solar sources.  See above.

    This was good Deadman.  Thanks for reading the package.

    i think it may include some wind/solar development. but i think its mainly intended to improve the stability of our current grid system and make sure that East Coast blackout we had a few summers ago doesn't happen again.

    10) $1 bln for nuclear weapons program vs. $1 bln for prisons?

    Do I HAVE to choose one of these?  I have real problems with both.  I choose neither one.

    yeah, i thought id throw in one toughie. but we may not like either one, but i think it's safe to say that prisons at least do some good.

    How about option #3?  Stop incarcerating non-violent drug offenders and criminalizing them for life.  Then you can put money back into the federal coffers instead of paying out for more prison beds.

    I don't know who thought we need more nukes.  Our nuclear arsenal is massive.

    Is this really the latest amended version?  Why is the date january 30th?

    hmmm ... wouldn't bet my life on it - but that's what the site said, and the post was from today. It's definitely the Senate version - it seems not to have some of the programs mentioned as being cut by the republicans. did the senate even have a bill ready by jan.30?


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