Juice Analytics has a very cool little gizmo going on – a visual tree map that lets you vote on what you think of different parts of the stimulus plan. Keep in mind that the numbers in the bill represent the Senate bill as it existed on January 15 and there have been a LOT of changes (few of them for the better) since then – but it’s a very interesting graphical representation of what we really believe about the money we’re spending.

How It Works
Couldn’t be easier – you click on one of the little rectangles and on the side you read how much money it represents in the bill and what that money is for. Underneath the explanation, you can click on “This is a good idea” or “This is a bad idea”. Based on the clicks on one or the other, the square is colored more blue or more red. The result is that you can see visually which parts of the plan people like, which parts most people like, which parts are about evenly divided, which parts most people don’t like and which parts we hate. The darker the blue the more people like it. The darker the red, more people hate it.

What’s it Say?
See that big huge grayish-purple area up in the left hand corner? That’s the portion of the bill devoted to tax cuts. Notice that it dwarfs everything else – and notice that folks are pretty evenly divided between liking it and hating it. Those tax cuts are a huge gray area that make up $275 billion of the almost $800 billion in the bill.

Notice how much of the bill is tinged blue, though, and how very little of it leans toward the RED. So what do we love and what do we hate in this bill?

What we love
$30 billion to modernize transportation
, which includes highway and bridge construction projects. In 2006, the DoT estimated that we needed almost $70 billion to maintain and improve current systems. Apparently, everyone gets it that building bridges and roads equals jobs and money.

$3 billion to the National Science Foundation, of which $2 billion will be used to expand employment opportunities in fundamental science and engineering to meet environmental challenges and improve our economic competiveness. I guess we get it that green energy and engineering is important.

What we hate
Seriously? The only part that everyone seems to hate is down in that lower right-hand corner, that tiny little square? That’s the $650 million to continue the DTV Conversion program. For whatever reason, we hate the idea of giving people digital conversion boxes so that they can continue to watch television.

But there’s a lot of blue in there…
In fact, there’s a lot more blue than there is red. Here’s a short list of things people like more than they hate:
– State fiscal relief
– Medicaid aid to states
– Developing and building a new energy grid
– Health information technology to computerize the delivery of health care
– COBRA healthcare health for unemployed workers
– HOME investment partnerships to rehabilitate low income housing
– Homeless assistance grants
– TANF for needy families to help them weather the current crisis

And a little red – but it says a lot:
Here’s the things that are leaning toward red, with fewer people supporting the expenditures:
Rural Housing Insurance – we don’t think it’s worth $500 million to support $22 billion in loans to help rural folks buy homes
Troop Housing – that’s right. We don’t think it’s a good idea to spend $1.2 billion to improve the conditions for our troops and their families. Because I guess the folks that put their lives on the line for us should be living in shacks (and in some places, they may as well).
Child Development Centers – We think it’s a bad idea to spend $360 million to build new child development centers – why? My guess is because people aren’t getting the immediate/long term job impact that these represent. We’re talking $360 million that will go immediately into the pockets of  construction workers, architects, materials suppliers, transport companies who carry those materials – i.e. economic stimulus. And then we’re talking ongoing jobs for teachers, maintenance workers, child care workers, school bus drivers, etc, etc. And THEN, as if that’s not enough bang for the buck, we get super-long-term benefits in children who are better prepared to learn when they enter school.
Title I Help for Disadvantaged Kids – that’s $13 billion to go to Title I, which goes to about half of all public schools in the country to help disadvantaged kids get more out of school.
TSA Explosive Detection Systems – we don’t want to spend $500 million to install systems to detect explosives at our airports and make life easier on travelers.
GSA Federal Fleet – We don’t want to pay $600 million to buy new alternative energy cars for government employees. Um. Okay. I understand that it’s distasteful to give gov employees new cars but let’s talk a minute, okay? Those funds are specifically meant to buy alternative fuel automobiles. Where will that $600 billion go? If it works right, and if Detroit and other auto makers are up to actually making these things, that money is going into the pockets of our auto workers and steel workers. And it’s not just going into a black hole to prop them up – we get a product for the money – a product that we actually need, and that will actually save us, the taxpayers, more money in the future. This is another expenditure that actually triggers other expenditures that go far beyond the original buck spent.
State and local law enforcement assistance – nope, we don’t want to put federal money into hiring new police officers, even if the states have to pony up 25% in matching funds and have to commit to using their own funds to keep the officer on board in the 4th year – and one would presume, in proceeding years.
Census and Programs – yeah, we don’t want to pay $1 billion to upgrade the way we do the census because you know, it’s not important to know who lives in our country and what they have and what they need. Interestingly, it’s one of the few blocks on the grid that specifically mention minority groups – it includes money for outreach to minimize “undercounting of minority groups”. Think that might have something to do with it? Think people realize that the census figures are the way that we apportion silly things like representation in Congress and how to distribute federal aid?
Lead Paint – we don’t think it’s a good idea to spend $100 million to remove lead paint in low-income housing projects. Because, you know, that miniscule percentage of the bill won’t mean jobs for people living in those neighborhoods to actually do the work and y’know, really, who cares if poor people get lead poisoning?
Indian Health Service Facilities – $550 million is too much to pay to improve healthcare technology and provide better health care to rural populations, because, you know, a) we owe them nothing and b) those things don’t provide jobs – Can you tell I’m being sarcastic?

Frankly, I’ve got some mixed feelings. I don’t know how many people are represented in this little graphic, and I don’t know where they come from. If this represents mostly the tech-savvy folks that play with techie tools like analytics converters – well, it’s a pretty specific subset of the population – more highly educated, more likely to be left-leaning, more liberal – so the results are about as expected. I’d like to believe that it’s a little more representational of the country as a whole, though, because then I could believe that maybe, just maybe, we’re thinking for ourselves instead of marching in lockstep with the media talking heads.

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