Promises to jump-start the economy

Obama and congressional leaders are trying to find the right juice for a re-charge.
Obama and congressional leaders are trying to find the right juice for a re-charge.

Certainly no one is happy that the U.S. economy is in such dire straits that policymakers are talking about a stimulus plan that could cost more than $500 billion. But an unintended benefit for Barack Obama is that the bill gives him a chance to make good on a number of his more expensive campaign promises.

Obama discussed the broad outline of his hopes for the bill in a speech at George Mason University on Jan. 8, 2009.

"It is not just another public-works program," Obama said. "It's a plan that recognizes both the paradox and the promise of this moment — the fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work even as all around the country there's so much work to be done. That's why we'll invest in priorities like energy and education, health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century."

On Jan. 15, 2009, Democrats in the U.S. House released a broad outline of what they hope to include in the stimulus bill, and it contained many ideas Obama promised during the campaign:

Creating a smart grid. ( Promise No. 476 ) The House proposal includes $32 billion to create a "smarter and better grid" for energy transmission distribution and production, with a focus on renewable technology.

Electronic health care records. ( Promise No. 59 ) The plan designates $2 billion (with a promise of $18 billion more to come) for the electronic exchange and use of health information.

Weatherizing homes. ( Promise No. 452 ) The Democratic plan has $6 billion to weatherize "modest income" homes. Typically, weatherizing a home means improving its insulation and window seals so the home retains heat or air-conditioning better. This usually means utility bills drop.

Doubling funding for basic science research. ( Promise No. 393 ) We're not sure how far the new proposal goes toward doubling federal funding for basic research. But it does send a huge chunk of change that way. The proposal directs $10 billion toward science, including $2.5 billion for basic research. That's a start.

Expanding broadband. About $6 billion is proposed for expanding high-speed Internet access ( Promise No. 392 ) with $2.8 billion specifically designated for rural areas. The proposal also includes a provision for a "comprehensive, nationwide broadband map." ( Promise No. 27 )

Granted, the items mentioned above are still in the proposal stage. But the plan is concrete enough that we're moving the Obameter on those items from No Action to In the Works. As we delve more into the stimulus bill's details, we expect to be moving the meter on other promises.