Delaware officials take aim at stimulus critics

    A year after the stimulus act was approved, supporters of the plan are defending it against critics who say it hasn’t been as effective as it has been made out to be.

    One year and one day after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed by President Obama, Delaware officials celebrated a project, funded in part by stimulus money that will improve energy efficiency at a Wilmington water filtration plant.  The installation of an array of solar panels at the Porter Reservoir Filtration Plant off Route 202 is the first part of a $14.5 million effort to reduce energy use around Wilmington.

    Wilmington Mayor James Baker (D) says spending stimulus money on projects that improve energy efficiency not only creates jobs, but it also will save the city money on energy bills and preserve natural resources.  Baker said, “If we don’t keep doing this for the future of our next generation, we’re going to suffer miserably because we’re going to use up all our fossil fuels.”  The Mayor also had some strong words for those opposed to the stimulus spending, “Contrary to the conservatives and all the idiots that we have out here, without the stimulus money we would have had an unemployment rate of about 40%.”

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    U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman (D) also targeted critics of the stimulus program.  He says the proof that it works is in the jobs numbers.  He says before the stimulus was implemented, “We were losing 730,000 jobs a year.  Now, you don’t have to be a genius to look at it and say, when you lose 20,000 [jobs] in January this year, as opposed to 730,000 jobs you lost in January last year, maybe something happened.”  Kaufman says the increase in the gross domestic product is also the result of the recovery act.  In response to critics of the act that say the economy would have come back without it, Kaufman says, “I’m in the Mayor’s corner, I think we would have come back maybe with 20% to 30% unemployment.”

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    Delaware’s lone Congressman Mike Castle (R), who voted against the stimulus a year ago, remains a critic of the bill.  While he admits it has done some good,  he’s skeptical of its long term impact.

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    “What it has not done is to produce permanent employment,” said Rep. Castle. “Most of this employment is for the balance of a fiscal year for the state government, or construction jobs for two or three months while something is being done. It is not small business hiring four more people they’re going to keep on one year, five years, 10-15 years from now.  It just hasn’t had that effect.”

    Castle also defended himself against accusations that, while voting against the stimulus, he’s shown up at events touting stimulus spending in Delaware.

    “I certainly did not vote for it, and I’ve said that at every single appearance I’ve made.” Rep. Castle explained, “Having said that, I’ve said also, once that stimulus bill passed and the money was appropriated, I wasn’t about to let it all go to another state if I could get something for Delaware.  I consider that to be the absolute correct way to proceed.”

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