Last Friday, President Obama paid a visit to a money-losing battery manufacturing plant in Florida to mark the seventh anniversary of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 – better known as “the Stimulus.”
Or course you remember the Stimulus. It was about the first thing Obama signed as president. It was an $800 billion appropriation intended as a Keynesian attempt to stimulate the U.S. economy following its steep decline in the wake of the mortgage meltdown.
The bill passed the House without a single Republican vote and got through the Senate with only the votes of RINOs like Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter and Susan Collins.
The money was to be used for “shovel ready jobs” and for “improvements to our nation’s infrastructure.” From Maine to California, people who had lost jobs in the Great Recession were going to rise from their beds each morning and, lunch pails in hand, proudly march off to work fixing bridges and tunnels and roads. Schools were going to get much needed “technology investment.”
All across America, public buildings were going to get a facelift and a fresh coat of paint. America would get back on its feet by making itself new and shiny and better prepared for a new century.
At $800 billion the Stimulus stands as the largest single government spending bill in world history.
So what happened to the money?
I know personally what happened to $46,000 of it. I sat at the time on the board of a non-profit agency. Over my lone dissenting vote, that board voted to accept Stimulus money in order to “save” the jobs of X number of employees. That no one was considering firing them at the time didn’t seem to matter.
Using the money to “save” jobs permitted all sorts of malarkey. A Congressional Budget Office report revealed that most of the money spent “saving” jobs was spent “saving” government jobs held by members of public employee unions.
To be fair, there was the occasional shovel. I saw a sign near the old Cotton Belt Depot in Tyler proclaiming that Stimulus money was being used on some sort of street improvements. (In fact, $1.3 million dollars of Stimulus money got spent on signs proclaiming the wonders of the Stimulus.) By a show of hands, how many even know where Tyler’s old Cotton Belt Depot is?
Then there was, of course, Solyndra — $535 million in “green energy” investment, all of which was wiped out when Solyndra went bankrupt in September 2011.
So where did the money go? Is I-35 between Dallas and Austin any less of a parking lot today? Are the subway stations in New York City any cleaner? Are any of the 61,000 bridges across the country that are said to be collapsing any closer to being fixed?
Much is being said this election season about how “angry” voters are. There are a lot of reasons for that but one that shouldn’t be overlooked is that $800 billion taken from citizens of the most indebted nation in history vanished without a trace.
A lot of voters remember.