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The New Economy

My five favorite things in the stimulus bill

The measure Congress passed Friday covers aquaculture to hybrid vehicles – but no zoos!

By / February 14, 2009

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California joined fellow Democrats Feb. 13 to field questions after the House passed a $787 stimulus bill. (From left: Reps. George Miller of California, Ms. Pelosi, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, David Obey of Wisconsin, John Larson of Connecticut, and Charles Rangel of New York.)

Susan Walsh/AP

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Driving into work today, listening to C-SPAN radio, I heard some House Republicans complaining that the stimulus bill contained money to buy green golf carts for government employees.

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That’s “green” as in nonpolluting – as opposed to green, the color.

That sounded interesting, so I read the bill to see if I could find the reference. (Look, I’m the kind of person who listens to C-SPAN radio, OK? My favorite comic strip is “Judge Parker”.) And the phrase “golf cart” isn’t in there, at least in the 500-page section that deals with appropriations.

However, there is a provision that allocates $300 million to Energy-Efficient Federal Motor Vehicle Fleet Procurement, including hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid vehicles. I’m guessing the GOP extrapolated from there.

Here’s some other stuff in the bill, which passed the House and Senate Feb. 13, that intrigued me. If you’ve got any more information about any of these things, please let us know.

Stimulus to zoos: No cash for you

Somebody in Congress maybe doesn’t like wild animals. None of the money in the bill can be used “for any casino, or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool,” says the stimulus bill’s language.

Really, that’s harsh. Lumping aquariums in with slots parlors? Maybe somebody had a bad experience at the dolphin show when they were a kid.

'Oooh, and the salmon's as high as an elephant's eye'

Aquaculture, or fish farming to us lay people, is a big winner in the stimulus bill.

There’s $50 million in the bill for aquaculture. It appears to be directed primarily at assisting “eligible aquaculture producers for losses associated with high feed input costs during the 2008 calendar year.”

What about tax cuts for fried clams? I didn’t see that in there.

A 'green' golf cart for Yogi?

The stimulus bill contains $146 million for “critical repair and rehabilitation projects” for the National Park Service. I think I speak for all Americans who have ever set foot in a Yellowstone rest room, when I say, this constitutes tax dollars well-spent.

The National Park Service has been starved of maintenance dollars for years and could use this cash. Plus, some of them were built by the WPA during the New Deal. It’s stimulus generational symmetry.

Strangely, snuggies weren't mentioned

There’s billions of dollars for weatherization in the stimulus bill. Upwards of $6.2 billion. President Obama says he wants a sevenfold jump in the number of homes weatherized under federal programs each year, from 140,000 to 1 million.

But the only actual weatherization technique officially approved in bill language as being cost-effective is “insulation of attics.” It’s right there, Section 407, paragraph c, line 14.

Why? What’s wrong with programmable thermostats? Double-pane windows?

But can they use it in a sentence?

The next-to-last page of the appropriations section of the most expensive bill ever passed by Congress – quite possibly the most far-reaching single piece of legislation ever produced anywhere by any freely elected body – tells us this: “the term ‘hire’ means to permit a new employee to commence a period of employment.”

Woah, thanks House Rules Committee! That tip’s worth $800 billion right there.

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