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And the Winners Are! . . .

A little over two weeks ago, we announced our exciting economic stimulus contest, inviting you, the readers of the WashigntonWatch.com blog, to call out the best and worst in the stimulus bill. We had many, many entries, and they highlighted lots of good and bad in the bill.

The goal was to identify spending in the economic stimulus bill that will do a really good job of stimulating the economy, or a really bad job, with a $100 prize going to the best comment identifying good stimulus spending and another $100 to the best comment identifying bad stimulus spending.

Well, with the stimulus bill being debated on the Senate floor, we have decided to close out the contest and do the judging. Special guest judge Adam Hughes from OMB Watch and I have looked over each entry, tabulated the results, hung the hanging chads, and triple-checked our work.

And the winners are:

In the “what’s good about the stimulus bill” category -

WashingtonWatch.com visitor Graham Dufault says:

As economist Gary Becker points out, many of the well-intended infrastructure investments mandated in the stimulus bill are probably going to end in wasteful spending. I am hardly ever an advocate of increased government intervention. However, I want to argue in favor of a subsection in Title IX appropriating increased funds for green job training. The Apollo Alliance reports that approximately three million jobs will be created over the next decade in the green energy industry. Most of these jobs would be middle-skill work (think electrician-cum wind turbine technician). Additionally, the Workforce Alliance cites a current gap between supply and demand of middle-skill labor that will widen by 10 to 15 percent by 2014 in favor of demand. Here is an opportunity for the government to make a productive investment in a sector that has a diminished argument for private sector investment, especially in the absence of high gas prices.

Graham was a Legislative Correspondent with Senator Gordon Smith’s (R-OR) office until last month. Senator Smith lost his re-election bid in November 2008. Graham wrote letters, floor statements, and legislation, and helped advise Senator Smith on a variety of domestic policy issues. He graduated from Emory University with a BA in economics in 2005, and is currently looking for full-time work.

Employers, jump on this opportunity – with victory in the WashingtonWatch.com economic stimulus contest on his resume, he’s going to go quickly!

And in the “what’s bad about the stimulus” category:

Kristina Rasmussen of the National Taxpayers Union writes:

Out of the $550 billion “stimulus” spending plan, $30 billion is dedicated to highway infrastructure while $10 billion is marked for transit/rail.

If we look at which transportation mode people actually use, it is clear that Congress is heavily favoring the proportionately small number of rail/transit users.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2006 folks logged 4.7 trillion passenger miles on highways. In comparison, we logged just 32.3 billion passenger miles on rail.

32.3 billion is less than 1 percent of 4.7 trillion. Yet the funding ratio is 75 percent roads and 25 percent rail – a major mismatch with reality. Sorry, drivers.

Something else to keep in mind: According to the National Transit Database, the average transit system covers only 40 percent of its costs from fares. In the rush to build new transit, we’d better prepare ourselves to cover the cost of future operating subsidies. Brilliant.

Congratulations to our winners, who presented, balanced informative arguments, and made complex subjects easier to understand. Each one wins a personal economic stimulus of $100!

We appreciated all the entries, of course, and decided to announce one more “honorable mention” – with a prize of . . . nuthin’ but fame!

WashingtonWatch.com visitor “Jody,” who is evidently one of the PolySciFi bloggers, writes:

It’s an absolute travesty that there is no funding for stimulus contests in the stimulus bill.

Think of all the creativity (and jobbbsss!!! and contest infrastructure!!!) that could be spawned if a mere $1 billion was allocated to writing short essays on the stimulus. With 50% allocated to contest administration, 40% to prizes, and 10% to the man who caught this horrible oversight, I’m certain this piece of the stimulus would’ve been spent far more effectively than anything else in the bill.

Of course, this is overshadowed by the even greater oversight that there is no line item in the bill directing funds to me to disperse through the Human Fund.

You had us at “funding for stimulus contests,” Jody. Congratulations for a job well done!

We have enjoyed running this contest, and may well do more of them in the future. (We’re hoping for a stimulus contest funding amendment in the Senate!) So keep watching this blog. Thanks to all who entered, and congratulations to our winners!

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Contest-Gal

Congratulations to all the winners and enjoy your prizes..

Chad

I have to say, I take great offense at the implications of the transit versus car travel statement. One, the point about passenger miles does not make any reference to how much of that travel is commerce. My mother drives around the metropolitan Atlanta area all day long… FOR WORK. Most individuals who take transit are taking it for commuting. Cross country trips require other modes of travel when you don’t have a vehicle, but if you have a car already, you can take that. I really feel that the assessment based solely on passenger miles also neglects that there are billions in transportation funds already dog eared for highway construction. Public transportation systems languish because there’s a vicious cycle: They’re inconvenient so people rather drive but they’re inconvenient because it is not a priority to invest in them because people drive. I believe there were some far better comments than the idea that there is a problem with expanding investment in public transportation.

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