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As Long as We Remember...

February 16, 2009

What’s in it for me?

Steven R. Berryman

In my efforts at ever expanding personal open-mindedness, the other morning I went straight for The Washington Post to learn the well-camouflaged details of the final $787 billion dollar spending package, called “The Porkulus” by Rush Limbaugh, and “The Spendulus” by Laura Ingraham.


These two, of course, are famous radio talk show hosts with a knack for the inflammatory. Upon a lengthy conversation with my parents, and after my careful explanation of these terms, my Mother wanted to know how she could join the “Hush Rush” movement!


Okay, it’s really “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” But if it’s really a jobs program, as advertised, why call it that? Will it save ordinary Americans in time?


“Stimulus Headed for Passage” by S. Murray & P. Kane was top-dead-center above the fold on A-1 of the Post last Saturday. Only five paragraphs of the column would fit on the page, as the Nancy Pelosi with Steny Hoyer victory picture was huge with the smiles of Democratic representatives.


The last sentence before breaking to “See STIMULUS, page A10” got me very excited, as it indicated immediacy of impact and urgency:


“The package combines tax cuts with new spending, and three-quarters of the money is planned to reach state capitals, businesses and individual taxpayers by the end of September…”


And I said to myself, wow, fantastic that we only have to wait seven months for real results! I was ecstatic, until I read on: There was no period at the end of that last word, “September,” and the continuation on A10 was the single word “2010” followed by that period.


An odd coincidence, or some weird media-bias meant to omit the timeframe?


Disappointed, I consoled myself with: But surely it will be worth waiting for, I say with some sarcasm, as my talk show friends have already keyed in on the plan benefit to me of $13 per week credit to me as an individual.


So, after reading on to the inside pages, A11 on the adjacent page gave me an excellent graphic with lines and balloons and summaries of the package called “A Breakdown of the Final Bill.”


I took each chunk of money explained above, and considered it against the backdrop of my Frederick County middle-income family of five, with two adults working full time, and three college bound children, one already there.


Of the $787 billions, and in descending funding allocation order:


*$90 billion goes to Medicaid, the largest chunk of all.


No benefit to me here, as we are not on or near the poverty line, for which Medicaid is targeted. I suppose one could argue that this supplements state coffers, which could free up money down the line for … maybe freshmen athletics at our high schools?


*$73.8 billion goes to “Tax Provisions.”


The bulk of this goes to tax credit payments, and this does impact me. The main thrust will add in ~$26 per week for me and the Mrs. As a direct consequence, we are now seriously thinking of upgrading to that higher tier of HBO on cable.


The $8,000 new first-time homebuyer tax credit does nothing for me, but might jump start real estate sales, so I’m hopeful on this one. Pity that Dearbought does not offer entry level homes.


Further down in the details I found something better, though: A tuition tax credit of up to $2,500 for families. That one I can use!


The downside of Tax Provisions is on the “wealth redistribution” side. There will be cash payments, to families that have paid no taxes at all; this in a bow to social welfare, and much like the Earned Income (Tax) Credit system.


*$71.2 billion goes to “Health, Labor, and Education.”


Yes, I know, we’ve said “health” twice now. Much of this will have a very indirect impact upon me and will be for the good of society as opposed to being a “jobs creation” item.


The exception is the payoff to teachers, who will receive extra funding, presumably fending off layoffs. This one will impact class size in a positive way, but the vast bulk of this cash will be for entry-level programs at colleges and K-12 schools for the low-income.


Me, I’m in that middle-income trap!


There is one silver lining item for the Berryman’s here, though: As we are in commercial construction, we may get an extra job awarded to remodel one of the schools. This would be welcome, but have only small trickle-down effect for me.


*$61.1 billion goes to “Housing and Transportation.”


This is that big payout to infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and rail. At least we can project 1.8 million construction jobs tangibly saved or created in this item, as claimed by Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-MN.) as stated in this blurb entry and reported by Dan Eggen.


Less pot holes to hit for me, and a lot of new jobs in construction; however, not for commercial drywall contractors like me in this portion of the plan.


And since this part of the plan advertises the most jobs created or saved in the entire salvation bill, does that mean that displaced computer programmers and state employees will need to learn to lay asphalt? And what of the other construction trades, many suffering now? As an industry, if we remodeled or renovated every school in the country, it still wouldn’t be enough.


*$57.2 billion goes to “Assistance to unemployed families.”


This one has no impact upon me, and I certainly hope that it never applies! This is another give away of cash from our children’s generation, and sponsored by us worker people.


*$54 billion goes to the “State Stabilization Fund.”


These grants subsidize the state education budgets, and will presumably allow other state monies to be freed up for other areas, such as law enforcement, and trickle-down items for the counties.


Our Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has surely already spent his entire portion of these spoils in his dreams many times in anticipation.


All of this analysis perked up my spirits, especially as Michelle Malkin had reported that Republican leadership had been locked out of a meeting to write the Conference Committee summary of the final form, and my expectations had been lowered.


Also, I like the outcome of this analysis better than the one relating the total package amount and the “3,000,000 jobs saved or created,” as explained by President Barack Obama.


Upon the scrutiny of my scientific calculator with bonus decimal places, that came to $262,000 per new job cost.


This assumes, of course, that the package we just passed was really a “jobs package!”


Next will be: Two trillion dollars for banks, so stay tuned!


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