Monday, February 2, 2009

Let's Make the Stimulus Package "Smarter"

The stimulus bill is moving to the Senate, where it might encounter a little more resistance than it did in the house. Republicans are looking to add more tax cuts and business incentives, while the Democrats are feeling the pressure to add more infrastructure-based measures.

Republicans are preparing alternative proposals that would shift the emphasis away from spending. One proposal calls for cuts in the two lowest income-tax rates and strengthened aid to distressed homeowners, among other measures.

At the same time, a Democrat-backed amendment being readied would increase infrastructure spending in the bill by between $20 billion and $30 billion, boosting support for mass transit, highways and bridges, and wastewater-treatment plants, among other things. "We're going to see an increase," Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) predicted on CBS News's "Face the Nation."

Here's the way I see it. Some version of this bill is going to pass, so there is no point now in debating the necessity of the entire thing. But I'm discouraged by the fact that much of the spending won't come until after 2009. The whole point is to stimulate our current weak economy. If left alone for a year or two, the economy is going to recovery significantly without this government help. Thus, all we'll be left with is more obligations; many which could be deemed unnecessary if the bill takes as long to get going as proposed.

I'd like to see the money shifted toward "smart infrastructure." Upgrade our power grid. Make smarter highways to decrease congestion in our major cities which will increase productivity. Look at building some high-speed trains to connect major cities. Upgrade our water systems. IBM's CEO wrote an interesting piece in the WSJ a couple of weeks ago. Its a good starting point from a company thinking in the right way.

Today's piece from WSJ.

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