Stimulating the Economy, One Potty at a Time

The Drudge Report has made the Obama $20,000 ring a household topic. Now, Congress may make deficit-financed $700,000 bathrooms the next kitchen-table issue.

At the end of many Congresses, lawmakers will wrap any remaining spending bills that finance the government into one big piece of legislation called an omnibus spending bill, or they will pass a large temporary CR — continuing resolution — until a date certain when they expect the jammed spending bills to have passed. This is generally when nasty little pork-barrel projects — earmarks — get stuffed into the legislation that most people don’t find out about until days, weeks or even months later, when it is too late.

But now the incoming Congress and president are starting out with a new idea in mind. They want to pass an enormous $500 billion-to-$700 billion spending bill to start 2009. They have visions of sugar plums and other goodies dancing in their heads, or at least crammed onto this catch-all spending Christmas tree. It may include energy legislation, bridges, transportation projects and other infrastructure — and just plain ol’ cash money — to states and cities.

And that is before they actually fund the government’s normal functions. The president-elect has famously called for his stimulus spending plan to more than triple.

And at least two senators, including Dick DurbinDick DurbinElizabeth Warren stumps, raises funds for Duckworth Senators roll out changes to criminal justice bill Let the Democratic veepstakes begin MORE (D-Ill.), former Sen. Obama’s senior senator, said a stimulus package could cost as much as $700 billion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also backs the idea of at least $500 billion in new deficit spending.

How much is $700 billion? This website has many interesting ways to picture that mind-boggling amount. Here is one:

A tightly packed stack of new $1,000 bills totaling $1 billion would be 63 miles high.


So where would the ideas come from for infrastructure projects and other so-called stimuli? The Democrat-controlled Congress is looking to the mayors and the governors, so let’s take a look at the plan they have submitted to Congress, called the Main Street Stimulus.

The Main Street Stimulus seems to revolve around building bike paths and renovating restrooms and sports complexes. In fact, the word restroom appears at least 25 times in the stimulus plan projects list.

These may be nice things to have, but is this the sacrifice the soon-to-be president called for? Some of the doozies in the stimulus plan include $776,000 for restrooms in Miami, $213,000 for a dog park in Henderson, Nev. (the home state of Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidReid 'fairly certain' Democrats will win Senate Satanists balk at Cruz comparison Cory Booker is Clinton secret weapon MORE) that includes dog drinking fountains and a $9 million skating rink for Harrisburg, Pa.

But wait, you say. Sure, it is a lot of money, but it costs money to create jobs. Here are a few things to consider:

• The plan costs $95,000 of deficit spending per job it creates.
• The Obama language skillfully (some would say weasely) says his stimulus plan will create or save jobs. These are neither new, permanent nor full-time jobs.
• Some of the projects create zero jobs — by the mayors’ own estimates. For instance, Honolulu submitted a project for the stimulus that was a cool million for land acquisition they estimate will create no jobs at all. Quite a stimulus.
• Alexandria, Va., submitted a project for the bike trail near my house for over $1 million that would create a grand total of two jobs. By my complicated mathematical calculations, that comes at a cost of $500,000 per job created. Where do I apply?
• The entire airport infrastructure portion of the mayors’ plan comes at a cost of nearly a quarter of a million dollars for every job created or saved. Yikes.
• And the winner of the glutton award goes to Sacramento, Calif., which submitted an Amtrak improvement project at a cost of $750 million that creates 15 jobs at $50 million per job.

It’s enough to make an earmark blush.

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