Friday, February 22, 2008

Could U2 Earmark a Rock for Infrastructure Concert for Wilmar ?

Investment in infrastructure seems to be a continual need … regardless if it is in Africa or Wilmar.

While President Bush is in Africa reviewing his five-year, $1.2 billion plan to cut malaria deaths in half in the hardest-hit countries, communities in America are languishing behind needed investments.
As compassionate Americans, we applaud his desires for a better world, but ask how our local communities can get their projects funded?

No doubt that the work of Bono involving Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill in a tour of Africa made an impact. In Uganda, O’Neill remarked "Forty-five percent of the people don't have clean water. The amount of money that's required to give everyone here clean water is maybe $25 million." Later, he cited the example of Ghana's need for clean water supplies, noting that in many cases, it could be solved by drilling $5,000 wells.

At that time, Bono was asked about a Rock for Infrastructure Tour with his band U2. I doubt that Bono thought he would have to earmark a stop in Wilmar, but I wonder if that is what it will take.

The Willmar City Council has authorized the city to file for a state loan to finance construction of the new wastewater treatment plant and conveyance system, estimated at $87.2 million.
The new estimate is up $7 million from a December 2005 facilities plan estimate of $80.2 million. Willmar’s project is among a pool of requests totaling about $1.8 billion. Some date back to 2000 (or essentially throughout Mr. Bush's presidency) and are awaiting funds.
Senators Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar and Representative Collin Peterson have been requested to assist in the federal grant.

If they succeed, will they be charged with “pork barrel spending” ?
Essentially, this would be an earmark … an instruction within an appropriations bill that designates monies to a specific project. The Constitution under Article I Section 9 empowers Congress with the powers of the purse. The departments and agencies of the executive branch may not spend any money that Congress has not appropriated, or use federal money for any purpose that Congress has not specified. Although the Congress may provide agencies with a funding, if they do not specify which projects should be funded, the agency would be liberty to spend it as they see fit.

With the 9% cost increase over the past two years, the longer the project is delayed the more it will cost. As a fiscal conservative, I was disappointed when Congress passed and Bush signed a $168 billion H.R. 5140: Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 , but the one shining star of fiscal restraint was Congressman Peterson who voted against it.

The business tax cuts included in the stimulus package are unwise. A 2006 paper published by the Federal Reserve Board shows that the economic bang for the buck of "bonus depreciation" for businesses is very modest.
The personal rebates may be spent – possibly buying products that were made in China, thus helping their economy, not ours - or may be put in savings depending upon the recipients needs.

A better stimulus would have been the passage of S. 1926 National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2007 which has been introduced by Senators Dodd and Hagel with co-sponsors Clinton, Obama and others. Disappointingly, neither Coleman nor Klobuchar have signed on. Frankly, I don't understand why Coleman with an upcoming election has not signed on. Do you think Barak Obama's speech in Janesville, Wisconsin at a GM assembly plant helped him excite his voters :
For our economy, our safety, and our workers, we have to rebuild America. I'm proposing a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that will invest $60 billion over ten years.
This investment will multiply into almost half a trillion dollars of additional infrastructure spending and generate nearly two million new jobs -- many of them in the construction industry that's been hard hit by this housing crisis. The repairs will be determined not by politics, but by what will maximize our safety and homeland security; what will keep our environment clean and our economy strong.

Invest in America.
Did you know that a recent Veterans Affairs Department report found that 18 percent of the veterans who sought jobs within one to three years of discharge were unemployed, while one out of four who did find jobs earned less than $21,840 a year?
Hire a Vet.

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