It's a pity that Democrats are caving to the Republican flyspecking of the Obama stimulus bill. Good example: The Senate today approved an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn nominally meant to prevent spending on frivolous purposes. It says spending is prohibited on:
...any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas.
The part about lights, chairs, etc., is apparently about some recent work on a gym for Centers for Disease Control employes. And this amendment is in part meant to stop spending on a "Mob Museum" planned for Las Vegas. But never mind that.
The country -- and Little Rock -- is studded with zoo, pool, park, museum and highway beautification projects paid by New Deal money They put people to work building things of lasting value. Would construction work on an Arkansas Rep expansion or an elephant display at the Little Rock Zoo or new parks not be an economic stimulus? Republicans don't value art and aesthetics, just tax breaks. Not even if they require bricks, mortar, sweat, toil and honest paychecks.
Above, in fact, is a photo of the art museum the WPA built in Little Rock in 1937, now incorporated into the Arkansas Arts Center.
Sadly, a gang of Democrats went along with Coburn.
Yes, Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln voted FOR Coburn's amendment. Got an arts, highway beautifcation, museum or parks project spade-ready? I believe LR has a few in War Memorial Park. Screw 'em, these guys say.
The arts community will work to get this out of the bill in conference, presuming it passes.
Don't be fooled by the Repubs. When you spend money -- even to upgrade government computers or resod the Mall -- it has a stimulative effect. Some private worker is going to build the computer, sell and cut the sod, etc. Let's build some museums.
UPDATE: Hell, it's worse than I thought. So-called moderates are conniving with Republicans to cut Head Start, money for disadvantaged kids, firefighters, security, food stamps, violence against women programs and more. When you hire a rape counselor, you've stimulated the economy, just as surely as when you hired a bricklayer.
UPDATE II: Something will pass, though more on the minority's terms than I think necessary or prudent. Allowing them to bargain suggests they're right in saying this is meaningless wasteful spending, not stimulus. When you give somebody a paycheck for a job, that stimulates the economy. Workers gotta eat, buy clothes, pay rent, drive cars. Kristof notes that part of the plan is to throw schools out the window. Teachers eat, too.