Biden Announces Stimulus in the South...North, East and West

“New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country. Businesses will be able to improve their customer service and better compete around the world. This is what the Recovery Act is all about — sparking new growth, tapping into the ingenuity of the American people and giving folks the tools they need to help build a new economy in the 21st-century.” –Vice President Joe Biden in Dawsonville, Georgia, December 17

I was hoping for a Biden gaffe, but he kept strictly to the script. The Vice President believes in this project and as the “Stimulus Czar” he’s trying to stay on track. Biden came Georgia to announce a new broadband initiatve that will roll out in rural areas around the country.  He was joined by Governor Sonny Perdue .

Perdue is the first Republican Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction and in his almost 8 years, he’s been presented with a wide array of challenges and had creative and conservative solutions.  He sold excess state equipment on Ebay,  realigned the executive branch, cut spending and didn’t raise taxes.  This week he had another challenge.  Accepting stimulus money on behalf of Georgia — the most Republican of the Red States.

It may seem unusual in this highly partisan administration for the Veep to come to Georgia for this unveiling but it may have been great timing. Biden came on the day a new Republican candidate for Speaker of the Georgia House was chosen.  The former Speaker left is position in disgrace in light of ethics questions, accusations of adultery with a lobbyist and a suicide attempt. 

The Obama/Biden Administration hasn’t seen a spending project they did not want to add to, or a debt ceiling they didn’t want to break through.  On top of that, the list of taxes they are advocating on people making a less than $250,000 a year in the super secret health care bill is mind boggling. It is the antithesis of what Georgians want in their politicians.  But the Governor and the Veep came together in Dawsonville, Georgia to propose and accept the first $42 million dollars of state, local, federal and private money to provide broadband service in North Georgia.

The federal government is supplying $33 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, OneGeorgia is providing $2.5 million in funding, local EMCs are providing $4 million, and local governments are providing $2.5 million. Interestingly enough, the OneGeorgia authority was created utilizing one-third of the state’s tobacco settlement to assist the state’s most economically challenged areas.  Tobacco money and broadband, well, why not?

Since 2006, Gov. Perdue has been trying to fast track the digital super highway in underserved areas in Georgia. “The goal of my Broadband Initiative is to ensure that every Georgia community is plugged in to the global economy with the broadband connectivity that individuals and businesses need,” Perdue said in 2006.  

On Thursday, with Biden, Perdue said, “Broadband is the new dial tone of the 21st century. Internet access is as important to our communications infrastructure today as reliable telephone service was a century ago. Creating an advanced network will promote economic development, expand educational opportunities and improve the availability and efficiency of government services.”

Rep. Tom Price (R.-Ga.) said this about the project and Bidens visit, ““Mr. Biden is quick to publicize the buckets of borrowed cash he’s handing out today. But will he look Georgians in the eye on Tax Day when they are forced to pick up the tab?  If expansion of broadband is a priority of the federal government, then it should be reflected that way in our budget rather than tossed on the growing pile of national debt. This administration is on an epic spending binge that is going to result in one serious fiscal hangover. Joe Biden would have us believe he is Santa Claus today, but he’ll look like the Grinch who stole Christmas when the stimulus bill comes due.”

The jury is still out on whether this project will be supported by the electorate.  If people get to work and the process goes smoothly, then it’s a win. The cynicism comes because the last 8 months of stimulus spending hasn’t gone so smoothly. Government workers and unions have been the big beneficiaries, not private industry and unemployment is worse, much worse, in Georgia. The debt ceiling was raised yesterday and Pelosi and company passed another pork ridden “Son of Stimulus” for $150 billion on their way out of town.  Congress hasn’t shown they understand the people, and the administration doesn’t seem to believe in individuals, but it seems they believe in broadband. I guess from the party of the man who invented the internet, that’s all we can expect.

While I hate everything about the wasteful spending of the last year, I do think real infrastructure is something in which government can be involved. Like the railroads of the 1800s or the superhighways of the 1900s, broadband is the way to connect people in the 21st Century. Governor Perdue is banking the last months of his administration on it.