What’s in it for us?

Noting that a pending “economic stimulus” package of nearly $900 billion is now before the U.S Senate, there are many of us whose reactions range from concerned to downright angry.

A measure of anger is justified. Remember a tax cut/rebate that was supposed to stimulate the economy? Remember how well it worked?

How about last year’s bailout of banks and financial institutions? A massive infusion of money into failing businesses that was supposed to stabilize them, and thus encourage them to amplify the process of lending money to businesses and consumers. Remember how well that worked?

Major money is going to the auto industry. Any bets on how quickly that industry will retool for a sensible future? Or how soon unions will compromise in the interest of the greater good?

Now, a new and many-faceted package is making its way to daylight — some facets desirable, some as questionable as the bailout of self-centered, cynical Wall Street cons.

And we sit here in Pagosa Country, in a rural location, with a local economy built on now crippled construction and real estate industries, with most of our hopes riding on tourists who, themselves, are hurting. And we ask: “What’s in this package for us?” More particularly, “What’s in it for the little guy? The worker?”

Once the pain of high-level brokers, bankers and corporate execs, with their bonuses, parties and jets is soothed, shouldn’t a stimulus package be directed, completely, to the average American worker and homeowner?

What will come to the workers here? The guy laid off from his job with the construction company? The Realtor suffering in a down market? The woman left without a job when the store had to downsize the staff? Moreover, what about the young people who have just stepped into the job market or who are about to do so?

What is this Pandora’s box going to contain when it is opened? Hastily conceived short-term spending projects? Funds directed toward the transition from one form of television transmission to another? More Wall Street-directed assistance? Pork to be devoured by insiders?

Tax cuts are proposed, but tax cuts are short-term answers: they bring a small amount of money to potential consumers, and give a brief boost to business owners, delaying employee layoffs. But they also diminish revenue that, in the hands of the right agency, run the right way, could be an unemployed worker’s salvation.

Then, there’s the money allegedly heading toward capital projects — including infrastructure repair and creation — to projects deemed “shovel ready.” How many of those exist here?

We’ve heard mention of a highway reconstruction project at Jackson Mountain. No doubt a CDOT project, if it is funded. Will it involve local labor? Ramp and taxiway projects at the airport? Shovel ready? A fit with stimulus guidelines? Local contractors, labor and materials? Who knows?

There is money in the package headed for education and, while the state looks at cutting education funding, this, we believe, could be money well spent, if decent reforms accompany it.

Kudos, then, to Sen. Jim Isgar on the progress he’s made pushing a bill through the Colorado Legislature to create a new community college in southwest Colorado, via the merger of San Juan Basin Technical College and Pueblo Community College. If the institution is created, will it be eligible for stimulus funds?

We hope so; basic, no-nonsense occupational training is a must in a down economy, the nature of which is apt to change rapidly.

So, while there is little doubt some government money must be spent to counter the current economic downturn, while legislators haggle about amounts and applications, we eagerly await news that something, anything, will be sent our way to be put to productive and lasting use.

Karl Isberg