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Ed Driscoll

Where the Agitprop Meets the Road

January 29th, 2013 - 8:24 pm

Fantasy:

Yes, the stimulus has cut taxes for 95% of working Americans, bailed out every state, hustled record amounts of unemployment benefits and other aid to struggling families and funded more than 100,000 projects to upgrade roads, subways, schools, airports, military bases and much more. But in the words of Vice President Joe Biden, Obama’s effusive Recovery Act point man, “Now the fun stuff starts!” The “fun stuff,” about one-sixth of the total cost, is an all-out effort to exploit the crisis to make green energy, green building and green transportation real; launch green manufacturing industries; computerize a pen-and-paper health system; promote data-driven school reforms; and ramp up the research of the future. “This is a chance to do something big, man!” Biden said during a 90-minute interview with TIME.For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history, converting the Energy Department into the world’s largest venture-capital fund. It’s pouring $90 billion into clean energy, including unprecedented investments in a smart grid; energy efficiency; electric cars; renewable power from the sun, wind and earth; cleaner coal; advanced biofuels; and factories to manufacture green stuff in the U.S. The act will also triple the number of smart electric meters in our homes, quadruple the number of hybrids in the federal auto fleet and finance far-out energy research through a new government incubator modeled after the Pentagon agency that fathered the Internet.

The only stimulus energy program that’s gotten much attention so far — chiefly because it got off to a slow start — is a $5 billion effort to weatherize homes. But the Recovery Act’s line items represent the first steps to a low-carbon economy. “It will leverage a very different energy future,” says Kristin Mayes, the Republican chair of Arizona’s utility commission. “It really moves us toward a tipping point.”

The stimulus is also stocked with nonenergy game changers, like a tenfold increase in funding to expand access to broadband and an effort to sequence more than 2,300 complete human genomes — when only 34 were sequenced with all previous aid. There’s $8 billion for a high-speed passenger rail network, the boldest federal transportation initiative since the interstate highways. There’s $4.35 billion in Race to the Top grants to promote accountability in public schools, perhaps the most significant federal education initiative ever — it’s already prompted 35 states and the District of Columbia to adopt reforms to qualify for the cash. There’s $20 billion to move health records into the digital age, which should reduce redundant tests, dangerous drug interactions and errors caused by doctors with chicken-scratch handwriting. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calls that initiative the foundation for Obama’s health care reform and “maybe the single biggest component in improving quality and lowering costs.”

Any of those programs would have been a revolution in its own right. “We’ve seen more reform in the last year than we’ve seen in decades, and we haven’t spent a dime yet,” says Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “It’s staggering how the Recovery Act is driving change.”

“How the Stimulus Is Changing America,” Time magazine, Aug. 26, 2010.

Reality:

Here comes the news that Time Inc. employees have been dreading for months: Sources say the world’s largest magazine publisher is expected to begin a significant round of layoffs this week.

I don’t have more details about the coming cuts. But the Time Inc. employees I’ve spoken to seem to put great stock in Keith Kelly’s report from earlier this month, which predicted that up to 700 of the publisher’s 8,000 employees may go in this round.

“Time Inc. Braces for Layoffs This Week,” –Dow Jones’ All Things D Website, January 27th, 2013.

Related: “Obama’s Economy: The Excuses Begin,” Tom Blumer writes on the PJM homepage. “Blame everything, except the government’s policies.” And check out the quote from Brian Williams that Tom spots:

With the election now over, it is once again safe to talk about the economy and jobs. Now that it is not a campaign issue, it’s back to reality.

As we saw yesterday’s with NBC’s imagined Second Amendment “hecklers,” reality is in as short supply at the once stately NBC as it is at Time-Warner-CNN-HBO.

Update (1/30/13): “Obama Recovery Hits Time Inc.: 500 Layoffs Announced.”

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