The Big Pig

I just read the official press release for the big stimulus package. The federal government has obviously hired a really good marketing firm because I have never seen so much pork masquerading as “stimulus”. There is no underlying theme to the spending except to spread the money around. Let me offer some interesting tidbits:

The overall summary states that there will be unprecedented accountability in the spending because of the RAAT (Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency) Board. Maybe their first act should be to figure out where the $31B is missing from their Executive Summary. I added up all of the spending in the executive summary and got $518.7B, about $31B short of the $550B mentioned in the summary. I guess that $31B already went down the RAAT hole.

I also performed a simple classification analysis of spending. Turns out most spending will not go to new stuff (i.e. stimulus) but instead will go to just doing things the way we currently do them. All of the fighting in the California legislature, for example, will be moot because $328B (of which California will get maybe $30B) of the stimulus goes directly to states to keep their entitlement programs and government employees employed. California, problem solved! Of course I’m sure that they will raise a whole bunch of taxes before “discover” this aspect of the stimulus package.

I was interested in the $11B “Smart Grid Investment Program”, which is supposed to be used to modernize the electricity grid. I looked it up on Yahoo and got 54 hits, all of which were copies of the press release in one form or another. We are going spend $11B on something that nobody knows what it is? If this is an honest thing it will take 4 years just to define it. $11B on paperwork. That is the change I expected.

Another piece spends $2B on battery technology. $2B? I can’t imagine how to spend $2B on battery technology. How many battery researcher are out there? I can’t imagine spending this in a year or two years or even four years.

Overall, the stimulus package will spend $825B, of which 4% is unaccounted for, 40% is doing business as usual, 33% is for “tax cuts” (actually just giving money to some people for nothing), and finally 23% for new stuff. Among that new stuff, most is going to rebuilding things to make them more energy efficient. That is probably a good idea, but my guess is that if they were to spend that money on building nuclear power plants we would all be better off.

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