Tuesday, February 3, 2009

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

CNN has posted this list of what House Republicans consider “wasteful spending” in the stimulus bill.

For the most part, though, I’m not seeing the problem. In fact, it looks to me like House Republicans are just putting partisan spin on most of this stuff.

For example:
• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient.

I’m on record as saying I’m no fan of the FutureGen project, since I believe “Clean Coal” is a big lie. But if you say you are a proponent of Clean Coal, and House GOP Leader John Boehner stated loud and clear last July that he is, then you should be lining up to support FutureGen.

The project was not stalled because it is “inefficient,” as CNN says, but politics:

Announced in 2003 by the Department of Energy, FutureGen is intended to be a near-zero-emission coal plant using the latest coal technologies to produce electricity and hydrogen. Illinois was eventually picked for the site. But in January of last year, the administration withdrew about $700 million to $800 million—in effect, suspending the project.

Rising project costs were cited as one factor. But many observers also suspect politics played a role. "When the final four sites were announced, there were two in Illinois and two in Texas," says Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association. "We knew we were going against the home state, but we were sure the decision would be based on science. Our geology was far superior." When Mattoon, Ill., was announced as the winner in December 2007, Gonet says, "we thought, great, no politics." But shortly thereafter, the Bush administration announced its decision to pull out.

In short, FutureGen was seen as such a boon to the local economy that it seems to have sparked a turf war. Had the plant been awarded to one of the Texas sites, I doubt Bush would have yanked funding.

As for the rest of it, I don’t see the issue with 99% of what the GOP is calling wasteful. The only possibly specious items are:

• A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film
but of course film production is a huge part of the economy in places like New York and Los Angeles, and I thought Republicans loved loved loved loved tax cuts?

• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters.

Okay, maybe, maybe this is wasteful. There might be a good reason for it but I’ll give you that.

But no, you will not quibble over $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River. Not you people who approved giving money to Derek Dye the Abstinence Clown. Not after Hurricane Katrina. Or $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs. Or $125 million for the Washington sewer systemm or $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings or $500 million for state and local fire stations, or $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.

It’s called investing in America. The kind of stuff the House GOP has been ignoring all of these years.