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Federal stimulus money is not disappearing down a hole

MANKATO, Minn. -- It seems when it comes to critics of the federal stimulus bill, there are no facts too real to be shouted down. In July, the private firm Onvia, contracted by the government to track the stimulus, reported that stimulus money we...

MANKATO, Minn. -- It seems when it comes to critics of the federal stimulus bill, there are no facts too real to be shouted down.

In July, the private firm Onvia, contracted by the government to track the stimulus, reported that stimulus money went to 1,330 contracts worth $21 billion and created or retained 230,000 jobs nationwide.

Minnesota Department of Transportation officials announced recently that 2,130 jobs had been connected to transportation projects in Minnesota. Some 98 projects in Minnesota are at the bidding stage, accounting for about half of the $500 million that state will get for transportation. It sounds as though the money is getting out fairly quickly and doing some good.

In a local example, a program for summer youth workers went from about 150 jobs last year to 400 jobs this year, and now those jobs have been extended through Sept. 30.

The Star Tribune reported that $11 million in stimulus money was awarded to law enforcement agencies that will be used to hire or rehire 53 officers.

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The General Accounting Office reported in July that as of June 19, more than half the $49 billion of stimulus money for state and local use had already been sent to the states, mostly to bolster health care for poor people and shore up state budget deficits.

The stimulus was expected, when passed, to work over 18 months. Certainly, 5 months is a little early to be condemning the use of $787 billion. This money is not just disappearing down a hole, as critics like to suggest.

Those critics charge that because the unemployment rate has risen since the stimulus was passed it must not be working. But that's flawed logic that is at best misguided and at worst intentional deception. The unemployment rate is a function of how many people are seeking work and the number of jobs created. So, an economy can add hundreds of thousands of jobs and if there are more people seeking work than that, the unemployment rate will rise.

Surely, the American consumer needs some positive news on the economic front. That news is happening. It's unfortunate that there are those who would like to deny the good news.

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