The Senate and the House are currently munching on their respective plans for our mind-blowingly large economy kick-start stimulus package. Super-mind-blowingly large. How large is that? Well, let’s compare this stimulus package to some previous expensive programs that have come to help define the US of A as a country and a people:
- Land a man on the moon: ~100 Billion (1994 $$)
- Interstate Highway System: ~500 Billion (2008 $$)
- Vietnam War: ~530 Billion (2005 $$)
- Iraq II: ~630 Billion (2009 $$ and counting, at about 1 Million every 5 minutes)
The version of the stimulus currently on the Senate floor: ~900 Billion. Wow. This is more money than has been spent on any project we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes – excluding those readers that are old enough to remember WWII.
So what should we spend it on? Well, how about stuff that will work to keep our economy and productivity on top of the world on a time span of similar scale to the dollar amount being spent – say 100 years? Hum, what should we invest in that’s going to be keeping us going then?
How about new minivans?? Everybody gets a new minivan for cheap! Courtesy of your tax dollars.
Investment beyond required maintenance in our decaying automobile system will function only to slow us down and help speed our competition up. Every dollar that makes it easier to drive reduces demand for other transport modes – which slows our transformation to a balanced mode share. It’s not just a break-even investment – say sacrificing long-term productivity for short-term convenience – it’s plain detrimental to our progress.
China is using their stimulus to transform their national transportation system. They’ll reap benefits from this investment through the 21st century. We can learn a lot from a little compare/contrast here.
Stimulating new minivans and repaved time-wasting mere 80mph highways will just push us deeper and deeper into the very hole we need to climb out of. Rather than trying fix an unfixable system, we should be focusing on introducing a viable alternative. We can’t expect 21st century growth and prosperity to magically appear out of a 1950’s solution to our modern-day transportation problems.