As a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, one of my chief responsibilities is to track how funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 were spent. After numerous congressional hearings and countless reports, my colleagues and I have found an unacceptable amount of stimulus dollars that were grossly mismanaged and poorly prioritized.
Now we see President Obama traveling throughout the country promoting the adoption of his second stimulus package and asking, "Why the delay?" Well, if the first stimulus package provides us with any prediction for the probable success of a second stimulus package, I think there is more than a good reason for delaying.
Although it has been almost three years since the president's original stimulus package was signed into law, we are still uncovering numerous instances of waste, fraud and abuse of stimulus funds.
We learned last month of the $535 million Department of Energy loan guarantee that the Obama administration gave to the now-bankrupt company Solyndra. The Obama administration's decision to rush through this loan despite being warned by top advisers, accountants and the Office of Management and Budget on the potential financial risk of doing so shows poor judgment. To make matters worse, rather than taking responsibility for a poor decision, the president told ABC News that he had no regrets about issuing this loan to Solyndra and that "hindsight is always 20/20." His lack of regret over wasting a half a billion of taxpayer dollars makes it clear that giving him an additional stimulus package is not in the best interests of my constituents.
While the Solyndra scandal certainly represents a terrible misappropriation of funds, just as shocking is the use of federal stimulus dollars to discourage individuals from purchasing American products. Recently, a group called Smart Taxpayers Exposing Waste (STEW) exposed $230 million of stimulus grant money being used to run ads attacking America's soft drink companies. These hard earned taxpayer dollars that were intended to stimulate the economy and create jobs are instead funding scare campaigns against perfectly safe and legal products, and the companies that make them. At a time when our nation faces an unemployment rate of more than 9 percent, I find it outrageous that federal and city agencies would aggressively advertise against American products made by American workers. Not only is this a gross misplacement of spending priorities, it is another example of a "government knows best" mentality that often permeates Washington.
Even though these two individual incidents represent a small portion of the of the entire $787 billion dollar stimulus package, when you combine them with the $1.9 million spent on documenting exotic ants in the Southwest Indian Ocean, $144,541 to study the effects of cocaine on monkeys, $554,763 to replace windows in a Washington State visitors center closed in 2007 and $25.8 million dollars spent on a PR firm to garner public support for a controversial Department of Health and Human Service program, it begins to add up. Further, instances like these portray a troubling pattern of an administration all too content to squander away tax dollars. With this sort of approach, it is no wonder that since the stimulus package was signed into law, the unemployment rate has continued to increase and the U.S. economy has lost approximately 1.5 million jobs. Additionally, we are now learning that the jobs that were "created" have cost taxpayers an average of $278,000 per job.
After reviewing the facts, I think that both my Republican colleagues, and many Democrats, have good reason to be skeptical of giving this administration another blank check. Especially since the president is calling for increased taxes to pay for this second stimulus package. I know my constituents do not want their taxes raised to pay for another Solyndra or being spent to advertise against American products.
Rather than spending more money that we do not have, we should be looking into solutions that are proven to grow the economy and create jobs. These include eliminating burdensome government regulations; instituting a fairer and simpler tax system; and eliminating our deficit spending. I will continue to fight to ensure that during this time of record deficits and high unemployment, the federal government invests taxpayer dollars wisely so that Americans receive a good return on their investment.