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.