Buried amid the funding for veterans housing, highway construction and other routine expenditures in the federal government's $787 billion spending package are some surprises.
Federal stimulus spending includes money for pet neutering programs, a study of Facebook use, a tax credit for golf cart purchases and what is emerging as a symbol of the sometimes strange excess of the stimulus program, a $3.4 million “ecopassage” or tunnel allowing turtles to walk under a Florida highway.
Of the $787 billion allocated by Congress, some $300 billion remains unspent. Even so, the White House says the economy already has seen its biggest boost from the stimulus.
Administration officials note the funding was intended to be paid out over two years, and resist claims by Republicans and other critics that the funding is not being spent in a timely manner.
“I think, for those that have said the stimulus or the recovery plan aren't working, you're hard pressed to back that statement up with the figures,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Early in the stimulus process, President Obama named Vice President Biden to oversee stimulus spending, including dealing with waste, fraud and abuse in the system.
Biden famously said that waste was inevitable in a government payout so big — but if so, the White House has not had much to say about it. Much of the toughest accountability on the stimulus so far has come from watchdog groups and congressional Republicans.
“There have been numerous reports of waste and mismanagement of stimulus funds, such as hundreds of underage 'first-time homebuyers,' including a 4-year-old, seeking the $8,000 tax credit,” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.
“We have killed more than 170 wasteful or ill-advised projects and we will continue to do so whenever they are found,” Ed DeSeve, special adviser to the president on the stimulus package, told The Examiner.
DeSeve pointed out that the golf cart tax break was made possible by a bill signed by President George W. Bush and the infamous turtle tunnel was approved by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.
More related stimulus stories: