Calling the stimulus signs “the height of narcissism,” Rep. Aaron Schock, Republican congressman from Obama’s old stomping grounds of Illinois, is preparing to bring the battle over the stimulus signs to the floor of the House this week. “The constituents in my district look at those signs and see tens of millions of their hard-earned taxpayer dollars being spent, no jobs created, and hardly any infrastructure,” Schock said. “I’ve already had several emails and phone calls on my personal phone from friends back home that are upset about it and say, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’”
Last week, PJM reported that Rep. Darrell Issa sent a letter to to Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, demanding an investigation into the cost of the signs and what he termed the violation of anti-propaganda laws.
Schock likewise regards the signs as propaganda.
“I think if put to the test the American people would overwhelmingly reject tens of millions of dollars of their money being spent on promotional propaganda,” he said. “If that’s an argument the president and his administration want to get in then that’s one I’m willing to have.”
According to a story in the Peoria Journal Star, an Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman said the signs are optional.
Schock says that assertion is false. He obtained the official documents outlining the use of the stimulus logo and the regulations regarding the signs, which he has provided to PJM.
Schock is correct. The official EPA document on stimulus reporting does indeed say in section V:
Signage –V. ARRA
Logo Recipient shall display the ARRA logo in a manner that informs the public that the Project is an ARRA investment.
Additionally, the White House’s own document on the use of the ARRA logo, which PJM also has, states:
Projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will bear a newly-designed emblem. The emblem is a symbol of President Obama’s commitment to the American People to invest their tax dollars wisely to put Americans back to work.
Schock takes particular umbrage with that section.
“It actually says requiring you to use this logo will show the American people President Obama’s commitment to wisely investing their taxpayer money,” Schock said. “That’s like the biggest oxymoron I’ve ever heard. Next it’ll be Barack Obama funded your teacher and Barack Obama funded your bridge.”
Schock noted the ability to fund projects does not belong to the White House.
“The power of the purse belongs to Congress; this is actually Nancy Pelosi and her bunch,” Schock said. “But, OK, if the president wants to take credit for it — why just the stimulus funds? If we’re going to have to pay homage to him on stimulus, why aren’t we doing it on everything?”
Schock quips, “Our textbooks ought to say: ‘provided by Barack Obama,’” which at least one textbook printer seemed to come close to doing last year.
The proposal to cut funding for the signs is part of the Republican YouCut program, in which five proposals are posted on the YouCut website each week and the top vote-getter is brought to the House floor in a procedure which forces a vote on whether or not to debate the measure.
At the time of this writing, the proposal to remove funding for signage touting the $787 billion “stimulus package” and to require a report on just how much money has been spent is the top vote-getter on the site.
Shocok said he would introduce a separate bill as well.
PJM reported last month that the cost of the signs could be as much as $192 million or more by the time the funded projects are completed.
“We’re gonna make an easy $20 million cut,” Schock said last Wednesday. It cuts to the heart of the Democrats’ message that “there are no easy cuts.”
“They always trot out the children or suggest you’re gonna put people at some kind of disadvantage if you make cuts in government,” he said. “This is a glaring example of abuse of taxpayer trust that they would blow this kind of money on self-promoting propaganda.”
Schock said he was incensed over the cost of the signs and what they imply.
“Signs over $10,000 a piece?” he asked. “This after the president spent all that time promoting the stimulus as job-creating infrastructure investment? Less than eight percent of this bill actually went to infrastructure, and then of that tens of millions of dollars getting wasted on signs.”