President Obama, in his speech before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, argued that it isn't necessarily the amount of money that government spends that matters, more the way in which we spend it. "We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election," explained Obama. "A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future." He noted that despite failing to solve the problems of health care, education and energy independence, our government still borrowed and spent more than ever before.
The Kennebec Journal editorial board expanded on this idea on Wednesday, opining that "this country's economic crisis isn't just about money. It's also about confidence. It's about Americans' faith in their government as well as their financial institutions."
So the federal stimulus isn't just about how much money is spent, or even how it's spent, our chances of recovery depend on the American people seeing that their money is spent wisely and beginning to believe again in a government and an economy that has failed them recently and often.
That's why the Obama administration put together recovery.gov, where Americans cans track federal stimulus dollars, and that's why Governor Baldacci set up a similar site at www.maine.gov/governor/baldacci/policy/Recovery2009.shtml.
In addition to not having as pithy an address, the Maine site also lacks many of the amenities of the federal site, but does have some good information, including full lists of Department of Transportation projects and their cost and audio messages from Baldacci explaining his thinking on the spending.
In an attempt to make things a bit more web 2.0, and more accessible, I've used a software package put together by ProPublica to create an RSS feed where Mainers can track changes to the stimulus site. By signing up to the feed (http://feeds2.feedburner.com/mainestimulus) using any RSS reader, you can get updates like this one showing what was added and what was deleted every time the site is updated.
Wise and transparent government spending at both the federal and state level is key to rebuilding our economy and our country. The more transparent the process, the more effective the result.
In other Maine political news this week...
Snowe and Collins did a lot of clapping during Obama's address on Tuesday.
A new report shows the Employee Free Choice Act could help Maine's economy.
Ditto for gay marriage.
At least four referendums will be on the ballot this November.
Collins aide Steve Abbot is likely running for Governor.
The Maine legislature is considering a plastic bag tax.
Hannah Pingree wants Maine restaurants to count calories.
I threw my hat in the Portland Phoenix's ring.