There is enough banter in Washington, D.C., about how the $787 billion federal economic stimulus bill has done nothing to reverse the deep recession, so there should be a second multibillion-dollar stimulus package.
Critics are right in that the recession hasn't lessened, but it's not because of the stimulus isn't enough, it's because the stimulus isn't out there.
Rather than seek to put the nation even further in debt with a second economic stimulus package, the Obama administration needs to push the current funding out the door and into places where jobs are created and work is done. President Obama agrees, but also adds that the $787 billion package wasn't meant to be spent in one gulp, that considerable spending will occur into next year.
The idea of the economic stimulus plan was to create jobs -- quickly -- and waiting to spend it next year is too late.
According to the government's transparency Web site, www.recovery.gov, Minnesota has been awarded $3.798 billion and received $2.58 billion of that, but it has only spent $668.9 million through federal agencies to the state. The largest spending comes in welfare, where $880.5 million was made available and the state spent $586 million so far. One of the weakest is transportation, where funding for shovel ready road and bridge projects was announced at $531.3 million and $358.8 million sent to the state. But only $25.2 million has been spent.
In other areas, such as funding passing through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of the Interior, has been announced but not yet sent to Minnesota and so there is nothing to spend.
Republicans earlier this week called the stimulus package a "flop" and said it hasn't lived up to its billing. They point to ongoing unemployment dips, now at 9.5 percent in June.
But the real problem is in getting the money out to where it will do some good. Only 6.8 percent of the $787 billion package has been spent, too little to rate success or failure.
President Obama wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the stimulus package wasn't designed to return the economy to full health, but to provide a boost that would stop the free fall. It was designed as a two-year plan, not a six-month plan.
But most Americans expected help at the front end, not having to wait two years.
Some say part of the problem is the massive amount of federal bureaucracy needed to release the funds. Transparency in spending is fully warranted and needed, but to stop or delay a project because a certain document isn't filled out for the sake of transparency is going too far.
Spending stimulus funding be accelerated, not only to give a bigger boost sooner to an ailing economy, but to ensure that jobs are created that pay taxes -- and start to pay off the huge federal deficit that the stimulus package is creating.
And the last thing we need is to go further into debt with a second stimulus package. We need to put the first one to work, as intended.