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Tracking the Elusive Stimulus Prey

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Our “stimulus” package, if you want to call it that (I prefer to refer to it as an economic bacchanalian drunken binge never before seen in the annals of history), the one that passed in February, the one we had to sign so quickly that no one in Congress had the good sense to read (yeah, that one) is one wily prey.

Tracking the money trail has been a pet project of mine, something that I spend a few minutes on every week to see if 1. Any money at all has made it to Michigan, and 2. Who has reaped the bonanza of the governmental windfall. I'd like to shake the hand of a newly employed person. Perhaps that guy could be persuaded to buy something from me.

Of course, the waters surrounding the Congressional goldmine are more than cloudy; in fact, one might say they have the consistency of a mud bath. This after year-long cries of a new transparency in government (along with the new government) and the warnings that if this last-ditch stimulus effort weren’t made and made right now, the world would collapse in a pile of ash around our ears.

Ever hear of Chicken Little?

With rallying cries, the law was passed, encrusted with porky projects as spoils to the victors. (Come on, like the Hokey Pokey, we all know that’s what that’s all about.) What’s a few bucks sprinkled like fairy dust here and there if we’re counting to a trillion or two?

And so in Michigan, the forgotten land of manufacturing sinking in a quagmire of little promise, some people were waiting with bated breath for the manna of stimulus money. (If you want to think of this state as Ethiopia with our starving bloated stomachs and our hands raised skyward, go ahead, be my guest.) We were going to cash in on “green” technology, so we could be right in lockstep with those Hollywood types who come to town enjoying a 42% movie-making tax break, a bonus taken from the backs of Michiganders who have to live and work here full time, as opposed to those visiting a few weeks and then hitting the beach house in Malibu, and have had to tough it out here for decades.

But, I digress.  Greenies and movie stars aside, there’s been little movement of the money in Washington to the sidewalks of Main Street.

In my weekly sojourns online, tracking the stimulus money can be an exercise in futility and an easy way for one to procure a headache while enjoying a couple of Extra Strength Excedrin downed with iced coffee. (Hide the Bailey’s.) Where are Mutual of Omaha and Marlin Perkins when you need them? Or the Crocodile Hunter? (Oh, I forgot, they have gone to the Great Hunting Grounds in the sky. Cue Norman Greenbaum, please.)

The federal government web site has little to report, and is heavy in doublespeak and links to worthless pages. Traversing it is like being lost in the Boundary Waters with no road map and an exhausted supply of marshmallow markers. The Michigan economic recovery site is not much better. Here one may find the occasional press releases about $400K to the arts or $900K for a university grant. This is pocket change, my friends. I have nothing against the arts, being a staunch promoter, buying up symphony seats and donating moola to my nearby art center. But one thing is clear: so far, little money has been released, and most of it has brought a total of ZERO, count ‘em, ZERO jobs.

Summer is almost over (it’s a painfully short season here in the tundra) and those “shovel ready” jobs are going to hit permafrost by the time the check hits Lansing.

Yesterday came word that the Federal government would like to spend $18 million more dollars on the recovery web site. Oh, joy. Smartronix wins the stimulus lottery this week, and this tidy sum should keep them in business through 2014. True, the place could use a mother’s touch, or at least the touch of a couple of bored middle school computer geeks with time to spare.

The first thing Smartronix should do is clean the turtle bowl so that we can see inside. Isn't that what "transparency" is all about? I want dollar amounts, when the checks were cut and where they are going. A spreadsheet can be made with Excel. Even a computer moron like me can do simple formulas.

Why does anyone have to spend $18 million dollars on a web site when I can imagine legions of people are waiting in the wings to do it for free? (Most of those people are unemployed.) Seeing that “community activism” is the next big thing, I’m sure there are people who would give up their Saturdays with the kids to bring the halo of transparency to the rest of us.

Or maybe not.

Me? I’m not retired, with time to waste to hunt for the stimulus money, although I wish I were and wish I could.

Perhaps the only way to bag the elusive stimulus is with an elephant gun.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • Perhaps the only way to bag the elusive stimulus is with an elephant gun.

    Joanne, are you hunting for the stimulus money with a pink elephant gun or a blue elephant gun?

  • I’d tend to agree, Joanne. If one didn’t know any better, one would think that no action whatever initiated out of Washington, D.C. The presumed impact on the local communities is next to nil. It was nothing but hype. And the only entities that benefited from the program were the failing companies, like AIG, GM, and the banks.

    We were taken to the cleaners.

  • Clavos

    Uncle Barack sent me a stimulus payment of $250 a few weeks ago (and another in the same amount to my wife). Ever the dutiful subject of the Messiah, I promptly stimulated the impoverished Apple Computer and AT&T by buying an iPhone 3G S with it.

  • Same here; paid my car registration with it, and it’s good till Nov 2010.

  • STM

    Aussie Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave us $A1200 just before Christmas (about $US1000) and has now given us another $900-plus.

    That partly takes care of a) the coming spring garden tidy up (and let me tell you, it needs it) and b) the new under-floor ventilation and heating system. That’s going to keep half a dozen Aussies in work for at least a couple of days.

    The federal government has also been offering $21,000 cash grants to first-home buyers building new homes to stimulate the building industry, and $14,000 to those buying first homes. The state governments are chipping in too with grants of up to $7000 on top of that in some cases, plus land-tax emeptions. It’s all working. Unemployment is up, but nowhere near the level we thought.

    The pre-Christmas $1200 stimulus payment worked really well: it kept lots of people in work and led to one of the biggest Christmas retail sales periods in Australian history.

    The current $900 payments (along with other stimulus measures) are working too: Australia is currently the best-performing of all the western economies during the current global meltdown (although there are only 20 million of us, it’s the 12th largest economy in the world). People are really taking notice of such simple things like buying their lunch from the local corner cafe so that it keeps people in work.

    We are also not yet technically in recession, and our economy GREW slightly last quarter.

    Obviously, the fact that there is a whole lot of shit under the ground in this country (like iron ore) that every industrial nation on the planet wamnts to buy helps, the other measures taken by the government have also helped … bank bailouts and savings guarantees nothwithstanding.

    We’ll all get through this, and when someone puts the brakes on Wall St’s/London’s giant corporate ponzi games, we’ll go from strength to strength.

    Capitalism ain’t dead by a long shot.

    It just needs a little government help for a short time.

  • Damn. No oasis in Australia either? That was my last hope.

    My husband opens the mail. If we got a stimulus check, he used it to pay next year’s taxes.

  • Georgio

    I had hoped that your state would get more help than it has Joanne ..I use to live in New Buffalo MI.I now live in Savannah GA…but I see some hope for your state because I think GM will make a comeback and I heard T Bone Pickens say he is now going to build his wind farm in either MI.or Wis..so hang in there.

  • Yeah, that wind farm will make all the difference in the world to the Michigan economy.

    I’m just counting my lucky stars that Obama has spent so little of the stimulus money and that everyone is trying to give it back.

    If he were doing a better job of getting the money deployed we’d be that much closer to the devastating hyperinflation which will complete our economic crisis.


  • zedd


    @ #3 I know you know that Apple has employees that need to keep their jobs and buy stuff (food, shoes, clothes, tires, etc.) to help other folks keep their jobs …. I’m guessing you already know that.

  • Jim

    How the stimulus bill got passed reminded me of being on a used car lot. They don’t let you leave the lot because after a period of time your more likely to come to your senses and not buy the car.
    Obama insisted the stimulus package had to be passed right NOW. No one was able to read the whole bill before voting on it.
    This massive dept will also effect how high our recovery can be. Its going to be a drag on our economy for years to come.

  • This stimulus crap is all Obama’s fault-if he’d been in the senate were he belonged when Bush got the damned thing passed last year instead of galavanting all over the country running for president, he never would’ve let this happen.

    Did I just say that?

    Dear god-I’ve gotten so liberal that I’ve gone around in a little circle and became conservative again.

    God help me

    …I must have taken too much Cymbalta today.