Time for lemonade

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sometimes, one just has to make the best of a bad decision. That’s how it feels regarding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the mammoth spending plan promoted by the president and pushed through a U.S. Congress that hadn’t the time even to read the more than 1,000-plus pages that comprised the bill, much less the chance to understand its potential long-term effects.

There’s plenty to be concerned about in the $787-billion scheme that has come to be known as the stimulus plan. Who determines what projects are worthy of funding? How will the social welfare programs that account for such a large portion of the plan stimulate the economy? Who will pay the bill when it comes due? What happens if this stimulus plan fails to stimulate the nation’s economy?

They are all worthy questions that Democrats in Congress chose to ignore in the rush to give their party’s leader an early legislative victory, whatever the cost. Sadly, considering the nation’s political climate and the ignorance of so many citizens about the workings of Congress — or even capitalism, for that matter — they are questions that became moot with the stroke of President Obama’s pen last month.

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So the federal government will spend $787 billion (plus wads of dollars on interest payments) — on something. The job for American citizens now is to make sure that money is spent on projects with some real chance of stimulating the economy, projects that will improve the nation’s infrastructure for generations to come, projects that will amount to more than dumping money in a hole in the vague hope that we eventually can fill up the hole with dollars.

Officials with the city of Suffolk have submitted a list of projects for consideration, and many — though, perhaps, not all — of them meet the stipulations above. A new King’s Highway bridge, Holland Road upgrades and extensive water and sewer work all are the epitome of economy-boosting improvements that promise payoffs for far longer than a year or two.

City officials should continue to press for their projects to get a piece of the huge federal pie that is being served. State officials — starting with the governor — need to be supportive of Suffolk’s wish list. It’s the only way, really, to make lemonade from the lemons Congress has handed the taxpayers.