Last week, the House passed the then-$819 billion stimulus bill — without a single Republican vote. GOP senators vowed to oppose it as well, calling it a colossal waste of money, packed with pork and non-essential spending.

NBC broke down some of the bigger numbers in the bill, for example: $275 billion in tax relief, $90 billion for infrastructure, $79 billion for school funding, etc. Sounds good, right? But in the fine print, there’s a lot of proposed spending that may raise a few eyebrows. In an interview with President Barack Obama, CBS’ Katie Couric called him on some of the more unusual proposals:

– $6.2 billion for home weatherization

– $50 million for port modernization and water and wastewater infrastructure needs in Guam

-$100 million for children to learn green construction

Obama defended the weatherization spending by emphasizing the long-term effects:

 

“We’re going to weatherize homes, that immediately puts people back to work and we’re going to train people who are out of work, including young people, to do the weatherization. As a consequence of weatherization, our energy bills go down and we reduce our dependence on foreign oil. What would be a more effective stimulus package than that?”

Fair enough. But what about the $800 million for Amtrak? Or the $150 million for the Smithsonian Institute? And there’s more: So much more, in fact, that the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has set up a website that allows users to comb through the more than 900-page-long bill. You decide: Economic stimulus or wasteful spending?

$198 million for U.S. military benefits for Filipinos who fought for the U.S. during WWII

$75 million for “smoking cessation activities”

$87 million for the “design of a new polar icebreaker”

$335 million for HIV/STD screening

$600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees

All projects worthy of money, to be sure, but are they worthy of being part of an economic stimulus plan that’s now expected to cost U.S. taxpayers $900 billion?

However, both sides have signaled a willingness to concede. In an interview with CNN, Obama said he would consider cutting items that “may not really stimulate the economy right now.” And in the spirit of bipartisanship, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) are working together to compile a list of recommended cuts, with a goal of reducing the bill by $200 billion.

But as the economy continues to shrink and layoffs pile up by the tens of thousands, the nation may not have the patience for cross-party squabbling and finger-pointing. At the White House today, Obama summed it up:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Advertisements