Stimulus bill needs more foresight and hindsight

Republicans are keeping a close watch on the provisions of a stimulus package anticipated to pass in Congress. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Florida) went as far as drafting a $713 billion alternative to the $813 billion bill House Democrats passed last week. Martinez’s bill seems to be a compromise between the wide focus of Democrats and the narrow focus of Republicans.

Unfortunately, his bill also compromises the original intent of the stimulus plan — to create and keep existing jobs and to recover and sustain economic growth.

Martinez’s $100 billion cut does not go far enough to eliminate the wasteful spending in the House bill — though Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) might disagree. On CNN’s State of the Union, he said: “And there’s no pork in this. Let me say that right away. But there may be some sacred

Is a $246 million tax cut for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion pictures a sacred cow? How about the $248 million spent on new furniture at the Department of Homeland Security headquarters?

Some standards ought to be set before Congress rushes to spend billions of taxpayer dollars, regardless of the severity of economic conditions. A reasoned approach would be to focus on market demands rather than short-term projects.

Many lessons could be learned by examining the effectiveness of programs enacted under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. One such program, the Works Project Administration (WPA), provided jobs for 8.5 million people working on 1.4 million public works projects, according to the Library of Congress. WPA projects built infrastructure including roads, dams and power lines that allowed business and industry to develop and grow.

However, the WPA did not come without faults. It was criticized by conservative opponents on the grounds that the government was appropriating federal funds for unnecessary projects never requested by the public. The WPA was dismantled in 1943 as America’s economy was revitalized, thanks to industrial growth spurred by World War II.

Today’s economic conditions aren’t quite comparable to those of the Great Depression, but many parallels can be made. Then and now, a collective effort is needed to regain composure. Unfortunately, the bipartisanship President Barack Obama originally hoped for has not been achieved: Not a single Republican in the House voted on the stimulus bill.

Congressional efforts to strengthen the economy seem to be falling victim to the same pitfalls faced by the New Deal — a reliance on quick fixes and short-sighted pet projects rather than solutions for a strong, stable economy.