Stimulus or stuck in the mud(slinging)

Everyone, it seems, has suggestions for how to (or not to) stimulate the economy. One of the more interesting suggestions I’ve seen so far came by way of Sara Mead in the Michigan Messenger. Mead argues that the portion of proposed government stimulus package designated for education should go, primarily, to construction and renovation of facilities.

In many inner-city and poor rural communities, a one-time federal infusion of funds would be the only way to get students and teachers out of some of the health hazards that pass for educational institutions and into facilities that look as if we really care about our children. This might also be a good time to look seriously at the Marshall Plan for Education proposed not too long ago by Linda Darling-Hammond.

Opponents of the currently proposed stimulus package argue that there is too much spending in it rather than tax cuts. Spending, however, is only a problem when the money isn’t being spent on what you value. Hasn’t been that long ago that some of these same thrifty politicans thought we weren’t spending enough on the war in Iraq or giving enough to Wall Street. I’d like to see some tax cuts myself: Mississippi charges a 7% sales tax on groceries. I had to pay over $360 in taxes to renew the tag on my three-year old Ford Montego (not uncommon for car tags to run in the hundreds of dollars here). But somehow, I don’t think those are the kinds of tax cuts they are championing.

Back in September, I made this observation:

[Then] President Bush stated in his radio address explaining the unprecedented government bailout of faltering Wall Street giants, “Given the precarious state of our financial markets and their vital importance to the daily lives of the American people, government intervention is not only warranted, it is essential.”  Are the children of our inner cities and rural areas any less vital or their situation any less precarious than that of AIG or Bear-Stearns?

“Oh, but they want to include spending money on things that have nothing to do with the stated purpose of the bill!”  Wow, when did politicans start doing that sort of thing with legislation–tacking on funds for special interests or projects back home (even the porkiest project benefits some voter, somewhere). Certainly, Democrats need to be held to their high-sounding promises to cut wasteful spending at every opportunity. However, I don’t see spending money on people in really dangerous situations as wasteful.

Once, while I was living in another state suffering through an earlier economic recession, our deaf son developed some health problems that needed attention. My husband and I were both working minimum wages jobs at the time (I was still in school), but because of his disability and our low income, our son was covered by Medicaid. However, all Medicaid funds in the state had been frozen (and would remain that way for a couple of months as I recall) because Republicans in the state legislature were upset that a small fraction of the total Medicaid budget was being spent to provide family planning information. Poor and disabled children and seniors were kept from health services, while the politicans debated and filibustered over this one issue. Even more ironically, at that time the major private health insurers were paying for full-blown abortions. I remember thinking, “I don’t see any of them cutting up their family’s health insurance card or refusing to use services.”

No economic package is going to meet with 100% support or agreement, but while the loyal opposition digs in its collective heels, our infrastructure (schools, bridges, sewer lines, etc.) continues to decay, and millions of people who could be working or at least being helped to survive the unemployment are left stranded.

I hope all the energized young (and not-so-young) voters from the general election are paying close attention to the scene that’s playing out now in Washington. What and who really matters to our elected officials is never more clearly revealed than in the fights over appropriations and spending.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

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