I'm seeing a lot of wailing and moaning about proposed cuts to the stimulus package, and it's starting to get ridiculous. "Oh, you can't exclude education! It's vital to our future!" "Oh, you can't cut out health programs for the poor, we need those!" Yeah, we do need those things, and you know what? We'll get those things. I think the people complaining just don't understand that the stimulus package is not the same as the federal budget. There is still plenty of room and (perhaps less than plenty of) money for these programs -- but in the regular budget, not in this separate spending bill. Just because they're important doesn't mean they have to be pushed through on an emergency basis. Nobody's starving because they didn't get money from the stimulus bill, they're just going to have to wait for the normal budget. And half the things people are screaming about aren't even remotely relevant to the purpose of the bill: I'm a strong supporter of NASA, but it doesn't bother me that they're probably not going to get any extra money in this bill. NASA itself isn't getting cut here, they're just not getting a bonus, because that bonus wouldn't be an immediate stimulant to the economy.
In a way, the problem is that Obama was a little too responsible when planning this bill. He talked a lot about spending on projects to build infrastructure. But building infrastructure is not the point of the bill -- it's just a side benefit, to help alleviate the long-term problems with spending this much money. The direct benefits are necessarily short term. It would be a BAD thing to fund NASA or Head Start or other necessary programs through a one-time funding bill like this, because all those people would have to be laid off next year. It's far, far better to pay for those things (even new projects) in the regular budget, so that you can plan to continue them after this year. I'm not sure I like using it for public transportation -- I'm a strong supporter of public transportation, but once the stimulus money runs out and we're all used to taking the bus... where do the funds to keep the buses running come from? (And do NOT start talking to me about writing long-term funding into the stimulus bill, as that would be not merely missing the point, but aggressively so)
This stimulus package is turning into the Democratic Party's PATRIOT Act -- they're using a crisis to push through a lot of stuff that might be good for the country, but is not directly related to the crisis at hand. And as you recall, the PATRIOT Act turned into a focus for anger and resentment against the Bush administration. No, the analogy isn't perfect: Obama has been good about being willing to negotiate, and despite some somewhat shrill "This has to be done quickly!" rhetoric, has appeared to be reasonably willing to tolerate delay in the name of getting it right. But it's starting to look very similar.