Saturday, April 18, 2009

Obamanomics in Action

I've blogged before on the fact that much of Barack Obama's so-called economic stimulus package is actually a supplemental government spending bill, designed to grow federal agencies and pad federal budgets rather than boost private sector jobs. This recent news story confirms it.

Former Colorado Senator and now-Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar just unveiled some of his stimulus spending priorities. But how they will boost the economy at large is mystifying, unless Salazar is pushing a full employment program for seismologists, geologists and biologists. Here are some of Salazar's "recovery act" spending priorities, all of which benefit the U.S. Geological Survey, as listed by

$15.2 million to modernize equipment at volcano observatories

$14.6 million to upgrade 7,500 stream gauges

$14.6 million to remove cableways, groundwater wells and stream gauges no longer needed to make sites safer for the public and support local economies

$29.4 million to address deferred maintenance at laboratories and make them more energy efficient

$29.4 million to modernize the Advanced National Seismic System

$17.8 million to improve wildlife and environmental research centers in Maryland, Missouri and Wisconsin

$14.6 million to improve imagery mapping used for emergency operations, natural resource management and flood control

$488,000 to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory to digitize and publicize bird banding data, which has applications in disease research

Wow. Can you imagine the economic shot in the arm America will get when our volcano observatories take delivery of all that cool new equipment! Laugh if you like, but volcano observatories serve as an under-appreciated cornerstone of the American economy. And even though nothing they do can accurately predict volcano eruptions, or prevent them from happening, just knowing that these facilities are there, monitoring volcanoes and serving as a place for grad students to hang out, is reassuring.

And how about Salazar's upgrading of stream flow gauges? Don't tell me that won't come as a relief to stream flow gauge salesman everywhere. Just the other day I noticed that another "Gauge Mart" had closed. Hopefully this will put an end to that.

Wildlife research centers are also critically important to the U.S. economy, and a prime generator of good-paying wildlife research center jobs, which we neglect at our peril. So it's good to see Salazar is addressing the wildlife research center slump we've been in.

Finally, the half million dollars for the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory is sure to come as welcome news to the 67,000-member American Brotherhood of Bird-Banders (which endorsed Barack Obama for president and donated heavily to his campaign, just coincidently). Too many bird-banding jobs have been outsourced to other countries. It's time we brought more of those jobs back home. Our economic security depends on the maintenance of a domestic bird-banding capability. This is obviously a wise use of stimulus dollars.

Actually, it's all just an obvious administration ploy to boost agency spending, for things that ought to be funded through the normal appropriations process. It's not what most Americans had in mind when the measure was passed. It makes a mockery of the idea that the goal is economic recovery. And it confirms that Obamanomics, Keynes on steroids, recognizes no distinction between the private and public sectors.

Only bird brains would spend economic stimulus funds on bird banding.

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