Seven hundred and eighty billion dollars. It's unbelievable how big that number is. Heck, I have trouble getting my head wrapped around the idea of $1 billion — never mind the amount that's supposed to funnel into the U.S. economy via the Obama stimulus package. Especially when all I want is a couple million. I'm not greedy.
The question that begs to be answered is, “Can the government spend that amount of cash intelligently?” The answer, at least according to Don Davis, the vice president of government affairs for the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), is a simple, “We'll see.”
Davis, who recently addressed representatives of various member organizations and trade magazines serving the HVACR industry during AHRI's Annual Media Roundtable, says the stimulus money will stream through the system very fast, and much of it will pour into existing programs.
Was the IMG bailout one of those programs? THAT money sure went quickly, didn't it? Was it intelligently spent?
Of the $780 billion, only 5 percent is earmarked for the energy sector, which, according to Davis, includes waste cleanup and consumer tax credits. Now get this: The requirements for consumers to qualify for those credits push equipment pricing outside of most people's window of affordability. How intelligent is that?
On the commercial side, stimulus money will go to states to use to modernize and renovate school HVAC systems ($9.8 billion), the General Services Administration to convert government buildings to “high-performance green buildings” ($4.5 billion), and the Department of Defense to implement energy-efficiency programs and modernization projects ($3.6 billion). This sounds good and will be good if administered properly. There even is talk about tax credits for manufacturers to help enable them to develop even better energy-saving technology. So far, it's only talk.
Is the government moving too fast to spend this money intelligently? Let's put it this way: The stimulus package is the largest outlay of taxpayer dollars in our history, and, as a nation, we need to be careful that we don't act like a bunch of ravenous children raiding the candy store.
The good news is that Davis says there still are opportunities to create a manufacturer tax credit and to revamp consumer credits to make more sense. But that takes time. The government needs to slow down. It needs no more IMGs. It must make sure the money truly is used to stimulate the economy.
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