Adding It Up

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As I mentioned over the weekend, I’ve seen a lot of Republicans on TV complaining that spending programs that demonstrably do create jobs do not create jobs, like buying new and more energy efficient vehicles for government workforces, etc. But where I’ve really seen the press dropping the ball is doing some simple arithmetic on the spending items Republicans say constitute the wasteful spending in the bill.

Now, the tell in my eyes is that almost all the criticisms I’ve heard are about budget items in the millions. And when you’re talking about a bill with over $800 billion in spending, you just have a hard time getting to any substantial percentage of the total spend with such relatively small items.

Now, here’s a representative list from Rep. LoBiondo (R) of New Jersey …

$1.9 billion for high-level physics research;

$1.5 billion for universities to improve their biomedical research programs;

$600 million for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to purchase new satellites to improve weather forecasts;

$600 million to buy new cars for federal government workers, adding to the existing inventory of 640,000 vehicles; and,

$335 million for education and prevention programs regarding sexually transmitted diseases.

Separate criticism has been directed at $75 million for smoking cessation plan.

Set aside whether you think these line items are worthwhile. (And it seems obvious to me that it’s good for the economy to buy more vehicles for the government fleet, when our auto industry is cratering and demand for cars is flatlining.) But just add those up and you get a total — $3.51 5.01 Billion — out of $819 Billion.

The pretty simple fact here is that the Republicans are not willing or able to criticize any of the substantial amounts of spending in this bill. They’re focused on a few tiny parts of it. And too few people are pointing out that these amount to maybe one or two percent of the program total.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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