(By Josh Marks, cross-posted at Green Forward)
Republicans keep falsely claiming President Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), was a massively wasteful failure. Right now the GOP is using all the money from their right-wing billionaire donors to inundate swing state voters with their anti-stimulus, pro-austerity message.
But in reality the stimulus is a smashing success. It is more than 50 percent bigger than Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and has begun to profoundly change the United States of America in ways many of us are just beginning to realize. The economic stimulus has kickstarted our transition to a 21st Century economy built to last. For example, $90 billion was pumped into the clean energy sector. To put that in perspective, a decade earlier President Clinton proposed a modest $6.3 billion clean energy initiative that was shot down. The Recovery Act is also one of the most transparent pieces of legislation in history. Contrary to the Republican lies, there is very little fraud or abuse associated with ARRA thanks to unprecedented levels of oversight. Click here to go to Recovery.gov and track how Recovery funds are being spent and report fraud, waste or abuse.
Time Magazine senior correspondent and award-winning environmental journalist Michael Grunwald’s new book “The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era” investigates the story behind The Recovery Act. The author argues that the economic stimulus represents everything Obama meant when he was talking about hope and change, but also exposed the ugly political reality of Washington partisanship fueled by Republican rage at anything associated with Obama.
Perhaps more than any other legislative achievement, The Recovery Act alone is reason enough to reelect President Obama. We should all celebrate the passage of historic health care and financial reforms, but the economic stimulus is doing more to move America forward than any other victory during Obama’s first term. Oh, and it also saved us from another Great Depression.
So why is this change so hidden? Why do so many Americans ask where this change is actually taking place? Grunwald argues that partly the Administration could do a better job selling the stimulus, but also there aren’t any Hoover Dam or Golden Gate Bridge-type public works projects that capture the public’s imagination. But that doesn’t mean nothing is going on. In fact, there are significant infrastructure, energy and other important projects taking place right now that are making a difference and improving our lives in ways we might not have paid attention to.
Here are just some of the over 100,000 projects, both large and small, being financed by The Recovery Act. Read “The New New Deal” for a fuller picture of the change taking place, but hopefully this list will give you an idea of some of the amazing progress being made in the United States of America thanks to The Recovery Act. For decades we neglected our infrastructure, transportation system, renewable energy, power grid, education and medical systems. The stimulus is finally starting to rebuild this great country.
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)
This new agency housed within the Department of Energy brings the best and brightest scientists, engineers, researchers and entrepreneurs to think outside of the box to solve some of our biggest energy challenges. They have already created a new scientific discipline by taking Biofuels to the next level. The program is called Electrofuels.
Brooklyn Bridge Restoration
During the month of July I lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and many times took the East River Ferry to lower Manhattan. As we would pass underneath the Brooklyn Bridge I would wonder what all that tarp, scaffolding and construction was all about. It turns out The Recovery Act is partially funding a badly needed upgrade to the iconic but deteriorating span linking New York’s two famous boroughs. The rehabilitation will be finished in 2014. Click here from more info from the NYC Department of Transportation on rebuilding the Brooklyn Bridge.
California High-Speed Rail Project
The Recovery Act is investing $8 billion in a new high-speed rail (HSR) network as well as upgrading and improving existing passenger train service across the country. The most high-profile project is in California where the nation’s first bullet train is being built that will eventually connect Anaheim and Los Angeles to San Francisco via the Central Valley. The 520-mile rail line will be finished in 2020 and reach speeds of 220 mph, zipping passengers from L.A. to S.F. in under 2 hours and 40 minutes. Phase II will extend HSR service south to San Diego and north to Sacramento by 2026. The Recovery Act is also funding upgrades to existing Amtrak passenger rail corridors such as the Pacific Surfliner Corridor to improve on-time performance, reduce pollution and create a more comfortable experience for passengers.
But California isn’t the only state making passenger rail progress thanks to The Recovery Act. Last Friday in Illinois a Chicago-St. Louis Amtrak train reached 111 mph in a test run — a 30 mph increase over its previous speed. And the money right-wing governors in Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio foolishly rejected for rail improvements is being redirected to 15 other states that are happily taking the money to provide their citizens with world-class passenger rail service.
Shepherds Flat Wind Farm
U.S. renewable power from solar and wind has doubled since The Recovery Act passed. The stimulus financed the world’s largest wind farm in Oregon. The 845 megawatt Shepherds Flat Wind Farm opened for business in September and features an array of 338 American-made General Electric turbines. The wind farm is generating enough green energy to replace two coal plants and is estimated to have an economic impact of $16 million annually for Oregon.
The Recovery Act is investing in many more renewable power and energy efficiency projects across the country — from biofuels to geothermal to advanced batteries to LED lighting and more.
The Recovery Act is helping transform New York City’s main post office into Moynihan Station — a 21st Century replacement for aging Penn Station. If you have ever had to take an Amtrak train into or out of Penn Station, then you know the cramped, rundown corridors and waiting area that is not befitting of the greatest city in the world. Visitors coming from places in Europe and Asia with world-class train stations must be surprised to see the confusing layout and decrepit conditions of the busiest train station in America. Before catching a train to Washington, D.C., Boston, Albany or other destinations, hundreds of passengers stand in front of the big board announcing what gate to go to when the train arrives. When the gate number shows up on the board, usually about five to ten minutes before departure, everyone rushes towards a tiny escalator on either side and aggressively crams onto the escalator. The insane process repeats itself hundreds of times every day and is comical in its inefficiency. So converting the James Farley Post Office Building across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station into Daniel Patrick Moynihan station, what will be a world-class high-speed rail hub, could not come soon enough for weary New York train travelers.
Second Avenue Subway
This past summer I lived in Brooklyn and worked on Manhattan’s Upper East Side so I would take the F or 6 train up Lexington Avenue and then walk east across Second Avenue. Thanks to The Recovery Act, the Second Avenue Subway is finally under construction. This is a project that has been on the drawing board since 1929 but has never been able to get going. That is until Obama’s stimulus jumpstarted the project that used to be known as “The Line that Time Forgot.” The Second Avenue Subway will relieve crowding along the Lexington Avenue lines by offering straphangers another option on the Upper East Side.
Here is a list of more projects moving forward with stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
- Staten Island Ferry Rehabilitation – New York, NY
- Fulton Street Transit Center — New York, NY
- New eco-friendly U.S. Coast Guard headquarters building — Washington, D.C.
- San Francisco‐Oakland Bay Bridge Seismic Retrofit project — Bay Area, California
- New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway widening — New Jersey
- Renovation of Wilmington, Delaware Amtrak train station — Wilmington, Delaware
- New Algae Biofuel Refinery — Peoria, Illinois
- Combined heat and power (CHP) plant at the Texas Medical Center — Houston, Texas
- Bean Federal Center rooftop solar panel installation project — Indianapolis, Indiana
- Country’s first net-zero energy historic building — Grand Junction, Colorado
And nationwide The Recovery Act is funding the transition to electronic health records by providing incentives and penalties to push physicians to move from paper charts to digital medical records. Race to the Top is reforming the education system to close the achievement gap by boosting the lowest-performing schools. Lastly, The Recovery Act is bringing high-speed satellite broadband service to rural, unserved and underserved areas across the country. For the first time, residents and businesses in these rural areas will be able to access low-cost, high-speed Internet service.
Out of the many reasons to re-elect President Barack Obama, strong consideration should be given to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as the number one reason.