President Obama and Congress approved the recent $700 billion stimulus package for one crucial reason: to provide jobs.
Now, states and other recipients of this windfall are struggling to launch thousands of projects that won't be sufficiently mature enough to provide jobs for some time.
Yet there was a way that this money could have been put to work immediately, with a guarantee that it would have a dramatic impact on the nation's employment figures.
We should have given it to our social service agencies.
In states like Ohio, public health agency programs and staff have been cut to the quick, throwing thousands of people out of work. Meanwhile, one of the few local American Recovery Act road projects to break ground has provided work for 13 workers to date.
It does no good to create 100 new jobs when 10,000 lose theirs because of state revenue shortfalls. It does no good to sit on piles of cash waiting month after month for paperwork to trickle through the system.
Health care workers are the people on the front lines of the health care battle. When home health care providers are laid off, patients end up in nursing homes, more than doubling the cost to Medicare. When neighborhood clinics cut back on hours and nurses, the nation's emergency rooms are further flooded with those needing basic care. When alcohol and drug treatment centers close, the results are predictable.
Health service agencies would not spend stimulus money on programming from India, bulldozers from China, or steel from Brazil. Most were adequately funded on a local level until tax revenues dried up, and after recovery, should once again be able to function without further special federal cash infusion.
I'm guessing that the public social service field had less dynamic lobbyists than the construction industry. What a pity the stimulus money ended up in the slow lane, while thousands of care providers cool their heels in the unemployment line.
Hindsight rant: How the stimulus package could have stimulated