Five years ago this week, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the stimulus package—into law. Here’s a quick reminder of how some of this $862 billion of taxpayer money was spent:
- New Buses Without Riders — $2.4 Million: The Winter Haven Area Transit Authority (WHAT) in Florida, which averages two to three riders per hour, used $2.4 million in federal stimulus funds to buy five new buses. Polk County commissioner Randy Wilkinson observed that WHAT spends more on the bus service than if the agency hired a cab for each rider.
- Renewable Energy Subsidies — $14 Billion: Despite more than $14 billion in cash payments to solar, wind, and other renewable energy project developers between 2009 and 2012, the projects brought online represented less than 1.2 percent of overall electricity generation. Subsidies for renewable electricity also wreaked havoc in electricity markets, allowing some wind electricity producers to pay suppliers to take their electricity and still turn a profit.
- Subsidizing Electric Car Owners — $7,500 per car: In the President’s stimulus bill, a substantial $7,500 tax subsidy was offered to electric car buyers, reducing sticker price of the Chevy Volt, a poster child for the Obama Administration’s crusade for green technology, to $41,000. The government, which previously bailed out the failing automaker General Motors, also used taxpayer money to buy 116 Volts for the federal fleet, despite the availability of cheaper options.
- “Green” Jobs Training — $500 Million: After two years and hundreds of millions of federal dollars, job placement for the Green Jobs Program was only at 10 percent of the target level. Furthermore, what qualifies as a “green” job does not always match the high-tech, high-skill profile the President often touts. There were 33 times as many green jobs in the septic tank and portable toilet servicing industry as there were in solar electricity utilities, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as more green jobs selling used merchandise (eg. The Salvation Army) than in engineering services.
- Weatherization Assistance Program — $5 Billion: The Obama Administration’s original stimulus package includes $5 billion for an inefficient weatherization program riddled with corruption and shoddy work. Subsequent audits found contractors that charged $27 for light bulbs normally priced at $1.50, as well as $75 for carbon monoxide detectors valued at $22.
- Assistance to Bankrupt Green Energy Companies – $2.6 Billion: Heritage has identified 19 bankrupt green energy companies that failed despite $2.6 billion in federal investment. Whether these companies failed in grand fashion like Solyndra, or succeeded like Tesla, the government has no role playing market investor. Companies that are innovating and creating real value for consumers are the true engine of economic growth—and they’re doing it without millions in taxpayer funding.
- Renovations for an Abandoned Train Station — $9.4 million: A vacant train station in Lancaster County, PA received $9.4 million in stimulus funds for renovation costs, including funding for a new elevator and offsite parking. The building had been empty for three decades. Taxpayer subsidies to cover the costs of the renovation totaled $117 per passenger traveling on the Amtrak line.
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