Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see
– Kerry Livrgren
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009(ARRA). Occasionally, major scandals hit the news of incredible waste or fraud, with this bailout, the tally which will lurch to $831 billion between 2009 and 2019 and yet our public consciousness of government malfeasance flutters by with only vague awareness of the Solyndras or the shrimp on treadmills horror stories .
How much has actually been spent remains hard to decipher and due to the maze of federal funding avenues, mapping this money’s trail will likely prove about as fruitless as the projects it funded, more dust in the wind. Blaring headlines of scandal, fraud and abuse through this law coalesce in short bursts of light, then quickly burn out and fade into the darkness that is government’s secure cover from public exposure. We, the public, possess short attention spans and quickly move on to the next big news story, easily forgetting yesterday’s tempest that roiled our senses momentarily. Laugh at the exercising shrimp at your own peril, for we like to sit snug as a bug in our partisan-colored rugs, content to blame the other roaches and dust mites for all the problems.
We like calm sailing, so best to let waters calm and the putrid muck settle back to the bottom, where the clear waters serenely mask what lurks below. I live in a very blue county in a Southern state that votes reliably red in most federal elections. A drop in the bucket from the ARRA made it to my small city (town) in the form of a brand spanking new transit system, composed of 9 buses, each replete with ADA-compliant wheelchair lifts and 2 wheelchair spaces. Our system shifted into drive in 2010 and keeps chugging along.
Working at the hub (our local big box store), where these buses pull in many times a day, I’ve watched these buses make their stops multiple times a day, year after year. The highest number of passengers I ever spied on a bus stopping in front of my store was 2, yes 2. Now, I admit to surprise at leaving the local Applebee’s restaurant a few years ago and seeing numerous passengers disembarking from a city bus, which contained families of soldiers from our nearby military post. Was I missing the big picture of how successful this stimulus project really was, viewed from my partisan-tinted glasses? I doubt it. To service these empty buses requires: 22 new employees including 1 general manager, 2 administrative personnel, 1 mechanic, 3 road supervisors, 1 bus hostler, and 14 drivers.
How many years and how much taxpayer money will be exhausted before this transit system runs out gas? I don’t know, but I do know that in this city, you won’t have to ever worry about having to sit in the back of the bus, you can choose any seat you want…. And if you thought the shrimp running on a treadmill going nowhere was the craziest waste of taxpayer money, you might take a closer look around your own neighborhood and find one just as wasteful as my city’s transit system.