Half-finished stimulus projects won’t help anyone

HALF-FINISHED STIMULUS PROJECTS WON’T HELP ANYONE…. The Republican message on the Recovery Act has always been a mess for those who take substance and consistency seriously. Just at the surface, even, the GOP is convinced the stimulus didn’t work, and actually made the economy worse. That’s both wrong and ridiculous.

And then there’s the hypocrisy. Every House Republican opposed the package that saved the economy, but most sought stimulus funds for their district. It was fascinating to watch — GOP lawmakers rejected the Recovery Act and insisted it would fail, while at the same time requesting money from the Recovery Act, insisting the funds would help, and then showing up at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Two years later, Recovery Act investments are, regrettably, just about over, but that’s not quite good enough for the misguided politicians who refuse to admit they were wrong.

Now, Republican leaders are coalescing around a proposal to “cancel unused spending authority in the 2009 stimulus bill” that could block funds from flowing to ongoing stimulus projects. However, Republicans have failed to fully explain the repercussions for such a radical budget proposal.

As the OMB director Jerry Zients noted, most of the unspent stimulus money the Republicans have targeted is already obligated to specific projects. By cutting off stimulus funds to current projects, Republicans could leave projects half-finished and force mass layoffs at stimulus-funded sites. This wasteful idea is even more cynical given the fact that Republicans have taken credit for major stimulus projects that are still ongoing and could be affected by their new anti-stimulus budget.

I’m curious, how would it help the economy if Republicans cut off funding, on purpose, for a half-finished highway expansion in St. Louis, an unfinished heavy water components test reactor in South Carolina, and a half-finished vertical lift bridge in Iowa — all projects that created jobs, improved the local economy, and enjoyed GOP support?

This need not be a rhetorical question. To hear Republican leaders tell it, they’re committed to improving the economy. So, here’s the challenge: explain why scrapping work that’s already been done and laying off the workers on these projects would actually help.

We’re waiting.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.