Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, continues to defend the size of the proposed stimulus package which has grown to over $900-billion — despite Republican claims it is too big and needs to be cut.
Harkin says, "My argument with some of those who are wanting to cut and slash this bill is that…if all we’re going to do is just put a bunch of people to work right now without transforming our economy, then we are going to be right back in the same situation in a couple of years. So we have to think of this both as a short-term infusion of money, but a longer-term transformation of the economy that we have, and I think that’s what’s been missing in this debate."
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has called the bill "porkulus" instead of stimulus because of the items it includes. Harkin says Republicans didn’t have any problem including a fix for the alternative minimum tax in the bill at a cost of 70-billion dollars. Harkin says by every account the A-M-T fix has zero stimulus effect. Harkin says he doesn’t have a problem with the fix because it has to be done so middle income families don’t get hit.
Harkin says Republicans shouldn’t support the fix and them come back and say "if it doesn’t have a stimulus effect, then it shouldn’t be in the bill." Harkin says every dollar in the bill doesn’t have to go to someone "digging a hole and filling it in someplace."
Harkin says there’s $625-million that’s going to the governor of Iowa, and they are not telling him exactly how to spend the money as he says they are leaving it up to states and communities to decide how to best spend the money.
"There are no earmarks, no earmarks in this stimulus bill," Harkin says, "so how can someone say there is pork in it? I don’t understand that." Harkin was asked about the inclusion of money to fight sexually transmitted diseases and how that will help transform the economy.
Harkin says we have to make sure that we have "prevention and wellness," something he says he "feels very strongly about." He says the money would help employ healthcare workers and make people more healthy and productive as he says he’s heard one in four teenagers has an S-T-D. "This is going to plague them and make them less productive for the rest of their lives and make them less productive as citizens," Harkin says.
The vote on the stimulus package could happen today in the Senate.