Good Idea: Keep Most Stimulus Package Money From Going Abroad

Casey, Tester, Brown, and Schumer stand up for work done in America.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

I cannot believe that it took four Democratic senators to hit the White House mule with a 2 by 4 on such an obvious matter of good politics and policy yesterday, but kudos to Bob Casey, Jon Tester, Sherrod Brown, and Chuck Schumer for insisting that funds from the 2009 stimulus bill be used to create American jobs, not foreign ones. Sure, I recognize that the U.S. manufacturing base has been so hollowed out that we cannot purchase everything we need from domestic factories to build things, like wind farms, authorized by the stimulus package. It would be stupid to halt all funding, and lose the jobs that the stimulus will create here in America, because one or two parts are available only from China.

But allowing 80 percent of the money spent on wind turbines to go to foreign firms, as an American University study claims, is pure folly. The Obama administration and the industry dispute the study, but the figures provided to the Washington Post by the American Wind Energy Association aren't much better. According to the industry trade group, from 37 to 47 cents out of every dollar spent on the wind farm program has gone overseas.

That is unacceptable. And, apparently, there is more in store. The four senators were prompted by the news that a Texas firm is thinking about asking for $450 million in stimulus funds to build a giant wind farm with turbines manufactured in China.

"It is a no-brainer that stimulus funds should only go to projects that create jobs in the United States rather than overseas," Schumer said. Exactly.

There is nothing wrong with having multinational firms bid for the work, or to buy some parts overseas, as long as an overwhelming majority of the jobs go to American workers. And that may be difficult, but it is not impossible. The Obama administration points to the work done by a Spanish firm, which is building turbines at a former U.S. Steel plant in Pennsylvania. Bravo.

But isn't that proving the senators' point? If the work can be done in the United States, it should be, and Congress needs to fix the program so it happens.

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