How about spending a billion dollars on batteries? After all, they are “advanced.”

The idea – part of the proposed $850 billion economic stimulus package under consideration in Congress – is one of the reasons for the establishment of a new website, ReadTheStimulus.org, which is trying to collect volunteers to analyze the dollars and cents written into the 300-plus-page plan.

“One of the additional features we want to add … is more detail on the actual dollar amounts being appropriated in the bill text,” the website says. “But to do that, we need to extract out all the individual appropriations and put them in a spreadsheet.

“Unfortunately, there’s just no way to do that automagically, and so that means we have to brute force it: have real live humans manually read each page of the document and enter in the dollar appropriations into a collaborative spreadsheet,” the site says.

The organization says the website was set up to help citizens read and understand the 2009 bill.

“If you have time … and want to help out, please e-mail us at [email protected] and we’ll let you know how you can assist,” the organization said.

The reference to the billion-dollar battery purchase is on Page 71.

“$1,000,000,000 shall be for expenses necessary for the manufacturing of advanced batteries authorized under section 136(b)(1)(B) of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 17013(b)(1)(B)):” the bill says.

The economic plan, according to an Associated Press report, still is a work in progress in Congress, with House Republicans requesting a discussion with President Obama on the topic.

In their letter to the White House, the GOP representatives claim the focus should be much more on the middle-class taxpayers and small businesses.

A federal report estimated only $26 billion of the plan would be disbursed in the remaining eight months of this fiscal year, raising questions about its impact on the economic downturn in the U.S.

The website states, “$850 billion, 334 pages, and counting … somebody needs to read it!”

The copy of “The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009” was obtained, the website says, from House Democrats.

Those who already have started work on the document cited a handful of officials who would be hired to “make recommendations” to “prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Under that provision addressing the five-member panel, this was stated:

TRAVEL EXPENSES.—Each member of the Panel shall receive travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, in accordance with applicable provisions under subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code. SEC. 1230. FUNDING. There is hereby appropriated to the Board $14,000,000 to carry out this subtitle.

The section continues to state that the board shall terminate 12 months after 90 percent of the funds have been made available, presumably leaving 10 percent, or $85 billion, left to be spent.

“Seems odd,” said one project participant. “Wouldn’t you want a panel making recommendations to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse to be around for the entire time?”

“Why have a board for waste, fraud and abuse at all?” added another. “Isn’t that what the $233.5M for the Inspector General and goverment (sic) Accountability office is for? Even this bill has people looking over the shoulders of other people.”

 


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