Obama’s ‘Investment’ Proposals Remind Republicans of Failed Stimulus Spending

By Fred Lucas | January 26, 2011 | 6:40am EST

President Barack Obama is applauded by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill while delivering his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama called for increased spending, or “investments” in infrastructure and alternative energy -- part of his “winning the future” theme in Tuesday’s State of the Union speech. But Republicans said such expenditures amount to a second stimulus act.

“At the same time he’s talking about freezing 12 percent of the budget, he’s talking about all kinds of new investments,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told CNSNews.com. “These investments are basically government expenditures. I don’t think he’s quite gotten the message of the last election. The message of the last election is, we’re being consumed by debt. It’s going to take some bold thinking. I don’t think it’s quite enough.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the president was paying "lip service" to the deficit and reducing government spending:

"If you listened carefully, you heard the president’s true agenda when he spoke of making ‘investments’.  That word ‘investments’ sure does sound good, but it’s really just a fancy way of saying ‘increase government spending’, because it isn’t his money he’s talking about, it’s yours – the American taxpayer,," Inhofe said.  "We’ve seen this type of ‘investment’ before from President Obama and the Democrats in Congress.  It was called their Stimulus plan – which by the way – only strapped us with even more deficit spending."

Some Republican critics say the 9.4 percent unemployment rate is evidence that the Democrats’ $787-billion stimulus law – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- did not improve the economy, even though much of the money was funneled to infrastructure improvements and alternative energy.

“I think the interesting thing is, when you divide out all of the stimulus money, it’s like $400,000 per job,” Paul said – referring to jobs supposedly created or saved by the infusion of taxpayer dollars. “Some of these jobs have gone to buy Chinese solar panels. Chinese companies got rich off of this. But it didn’t work. The reason it didn’t work is because you need to let the consumer decide where money is spent, not bureaucrats in Washington decide. We shouldn’t be deciding what energy source. We should be letting the market decide.”

But Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) believes the first round of stimulus spending was a success.

“We hear from mayors and governors that it saved a lot of jobs. It saved first responders. It saved teachers’ jobs,” Waters told CNSNews.com. “They all agree that it certainly helped their cities and their states.

“A lot of so-called shovel-ready projects did not seem to get off the ground, Waters admitted. “I’m not so sure they were shovel ready,” she said. “So it is baffling why the stock market is doing so well and the banks are making lots of profits but the unemployment numbers are not changing fast enough. Nobody knows how to figure that out right now, but the president concentrated a lot on jobs, infrastructure and all of those things you just alluded to.”

Obama, during his address to the nation, called for “rebuilding America.”

“South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do,” Obama said. “Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do.  China is building faster trains and newer airports.  Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a D. We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.”

Obama promised to “put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.  We’ll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what’s best for the economy, not politicians.”

Senate Republicans, anticipating Obama’s call for more government spending, noted the “poor track record” of previous stimulus investments. They compiled a list of projects  they consider wasteful,  including:

-- $336,000 to collect plants in Ohio for a database.
-- $219,000 to study the “sex patterns of college women” at Syracuse University.
-- $1 million for the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.
-- $50,000 to fix cracks in the city tennis court in Bozeman, Mt., that even Democratic Gov. Brian Schwetizer criticized, saying, “What they violated was that rule of common sense.”
-- $300,000 for “mapping radioactive rabbit feces.”
-- $325,000 to study “the mating decisions” of female cactus bugs.
-- $535 million given to solar panel maker Solyndra of Freemont, Calif., which “scuttled its factory expansion in Fremont, a move that [would] stop the company's plans to hire 1,000 workers,” and would “eliminate 155 to 175 jobs in Fremont.”

During a speech on the Senate floor prior to the State of the Union address, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the president’s approach:

“And now we hear that he plans to stick with the same failed approach of economic growth through even more government spending with a call for 'investments’ in education, infrastructure, research, and renewable energy,” McConnell said.

 “We’ve seen before what Democrats in Washington mean by investments. In promoting the failed stimulus, the president referred to that, too, as an investment in our nation’s future. Fourteen times alone during his signing statement, he referred to the stimulus bill’s ‘investments.’ We all know how that turned out.”

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