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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is Senator David Vitter's Stimulus Criticism Valid

by Larry Lagarde

Today, I received an interesting email from U.S. Senator David Vitter (the Republican senator representing Southeast Louisiana). Titled "Happy Stimulus Anniversary Taxpayers!", the letter was a cynical stab at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that was passed last year by Congress to stimulate the economy.

Two things made the letter stand out. First, Senator Vitter selected to focus on $56-57 million of ARRA spending that he considered wasteful (rather than the other $1 trillion+). Second was the timing of the letter. Just the day before, the US Dept of Transportation awarded a $45 million stimulus fund grant to a transportation project in Senator Vitter's district (complete details on page 35 of this pdf).

As one of Senator Vitter's constituents (and a registered, active voter), I decided to contact Sen. Vitter so I could have a clearer understanding of his views. Here's the email I sent him this evening:
Senator Vitter,

As one of your constituents, I'd like a clarification on your position concerning the $45 million TIGER award grant that the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority received yesterday via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Specifically, since you characterize certain allotments of the ARRA or "stimulus" funds as wasteful, does that mean you were against awarding the New Orleans RTA with a grant that fully funds the building of the Union Passenger Terminal - Loyola Loop streetcar line?

Additionally, are you in favor of federal funding of flood control levees in your district but against building levees outside your district?

I ask because the $54 million award you referenced today in your email titled "Happy Stimulus Anniversary Taxpayers!" was designated for the construction of a flood wall and related improvements for the Napa River Flood Control Project, not the Wine Train.

I hope you are in favor of the $45 million award to the RTA. Running from New Orleans' Amtrak/Greyhound terminal to Canal Street, the new streetcar line will connect with the existing, historic Canal St & St. Charles Ave (as well as the Riverfront) streetcar lines. Since the grant requires the RTA to complete the streetcar line within 2 years, this vital & new transit link will soon be transporting locals and tourists to work and play, spurring faster redevelopment of vacant high rise properties downtown such as the old Hyatt Regency Hotel, Plaza Towers, Charity Hospital and a variety of other large structures in the Central Business District that are still vacant almost 5 years after Katrina.


Larry Lagarde
Practical & Fun Bicycles That Fold For Storage, Travel & Convenience
If you'd like to read the original email from Senator Vitter, I've posted it below. Additionally, I will post here any response I receive from the Senator.

Happy Stimulus Anniversary Taxpayers!

Dear Friend,

One year ago, over my strong opposition, President Obama and liberals in Congress passed the $1.1 trillion "stimulus" for our economy.  At the time unemployment was at 7.7 percent, and a year later it has unfortunately increased to 9.7 percent.

The stimulus was packed full of wasteful pork barrel spending that has nothing to do with stimulating our economy. 

Here are just a few small examples of egregious waste that our money was spent on:

    1. $250 stimulus checks went to thousands of convicted felons while still being held in prison.
    2. $390,000 to study people who consume malt liquor and marijuana went to The State University Of New York At Buffalo.
    3. $1 million to renovate Sunset Boulevard, or "the Sunset Strip" was given to the City of West Hollywood Council.
    4. $54 million went to the Napa Valley wine train.

These projects are hardly the type of stimulus we were promised and are typical of the waste and government growth we've seen this past year.  That is why I offered an amendment to the stimulus to cut $40 billion in waste like this and why I joined a majority of our Congressional delegation in voting against the stimulus.

We need to change the focus away from bloated federal spending and away from borrowing or issuing new debt for which the next generation is responsible.

I've introduced the No Cost Stimulus with the specific goal of stimulating the economy by creating jobs, freeing up domestic resources for U.S. citizens, and streamlining regulatory review processes that have choked U.S. business and development.  My bill would increase our oil and gas production and create two million long-term, sustainable and well paying jobs.

I'll keep fighting for commonsense proposals like this and to turn the corner to control exploding federal spending and debt.

David Vitter
U.S. Senator

US Senator David Vitter's contact form online

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At Saturday, February 20, 2010 11:08:00 AM CST, Blogger Kerry said...

It appears your US senator is caught between a rock and a hard place. He sounds like a Republican who voted against the stimulus package. But he is also a Louisianan politician who wants to show that he is bringing Federal dollars into the state.

IMHO, to handle this with integrity, the senator should continue his opposition to the stimulus package. If that package generates any local projects, he should not claim to have had anything to do with obtaining that funding and should not go to any PR events such as ribbon-cuttings, etc. To do otherwise would be hypocritical.

As voters with short memories, we should not be able to connect the dots to future news releases touting money for local projects, etc. For those of us who do connect the dots, the day will come when the incumbent is up for re-election. If we do not know for whom we should vote, at least we will know who to vote against. Dishonest politicians who think I am a fool stand high on my list.

Thank you for using your valuable website space to post the info.


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