The Unserious Opposition

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Republicans are threatening to derail the stimulus package because it is "wasteful."

Now they've released a list of its 32 worst provisions -- one of which ($400 million in STD prevention funding) has already been stripped.

The remaining 31 items total a bit over $18 billion. Now, $18 billion is serious money. Wall Street bonus money. And if we can save it, let's. But some perspective: It's just 2 percent of the $880 billion stimulus package. The Republicans are nibbling around the edges here.

And look at what the GOP considers to be pork in this bill:

The biggest line item is $6 billion for greening federal buildings.

This is stimulus at its best. Thousands of labor-intensive American jobs. Hundreds of millions in new orders to American manufacturers for windows and weather stripping and caulk and insulation. And it has the added bonus of saving taxpayers millions down the line: You reap long term savings in energy costs and have the added bonus of reduced greenhouse emissions. The only justification for calling this "wasteful" is Cheneyite ideology.

Next: $2 billion for a "clean coal plant." Verdict: Waste. Kill it.

Next: $1.4 billion for "rural waste disposal" programs. Verdict: Unclear. Sounds like a jobs program. Or a mob program. Tell me more.

Next: $1.2 billion for youth jobs programs. Verdict: Stimulus.

Next: $1 billion to help make up 2010 Census funding shortfall. Verdict: Worthy but misplaced. We'll have to spend that money anyhow. Kill it.

Next: $850 for Amtrak. Verdict: Stimulus, as sure as federal highway spending is stimulus.

It goes on and on like this.

For every arguably porky proposal -- $88 million for a Coast Guard arctic icebreaker (wasteful because it's soon to be obsolete?) -- there are four undeniably stimulus-related-program-activities: $750 billion to build and furnish a real headquarters for Homeland Security, $500 million for state and local fire departments, $500 million for Mississippi River flood control projects, $200 million for computer centers at community colleges, a $125 million D.C. sewer-system upgrade, and on and on.

If this is the best the GOP can offer to justify its obstructionism, then the objective is clearly not about saving money.

It's about forcing a popular president to expend political capital.

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