The silver lining

Published 8:05 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

There’s much to dislike about the $787 billion stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, but with the ink now dry on one of the nation’s largest public spending programs since World War II, it’s time to look on the bright side.

For Western Tidewater, the economic benefits could be significant, if not truly stimulating.

State funding for area public school divisions, which had been expected to take a huge hit, will be shored up for the coming year. If school boards are smart, they will recognize the one-time federal money for what it is — a Band-aid — and still begin to make the tough decisions that will hold the divisions in good stead for what will likely be several straight years of lean funding.

Increased Pell Grant funding will allow more people to further their educations, including at Paul D. Camp Community College.

Potentially devastating cuts in Medicaid reimbursement rates for health-care providers should be less severe.

The big-ticket retail economy should get a boost as a result of tax breaks in the package. Sales tax is waived through Dec. 31 for people who buy a new car. First-time homebuyers who purchase a new home before Dec. 31 are eligible for an $8,000 tax credit. Consumers who purchase new, energy-efficient appliances will be eligible for rebates.

Most workers, including those who don’t make enough to pay income taxes, will earn $400 to $800 tax credits.

We wish the stimulus package had made heavier investments in infrastructure, such as schools, roads and bridges, that would have created immediate jobs and had positive, long-lasting effects.

Instead, the package was loaded up with questionable spending on programs that will please special-interest groups but will have negligible impact on the economy at large. When the tab comes due for future generations of taxpayers, the flaws of this stimulus program will be fully exposed.

For now, we can only make the best of it.