What a Better Stimulus Bill Would Look Like
What could Obama have proposed instead of tax cuts? Some very quick examples:
Example: if you want houses refit to be energy efficient, say that Freddie and Fannie will refinance (not rewrite, refi, then it doesn't matter who owns them) mortgages to reduce the payment amounts by the value of the refit plus some, the government will make up the difference. Specify exactly what is required to get the improved mortgage rates, and have inspectors check the work, even offer some upfront credit to get the job done. (You can easily dump in hundreds of billions into this. It also allows you to backdoor refi a lot of houses - you can refi at current mortgage rates sort of no matter what, so once people do it they'll get a huge savings if they were in a bad mortgage).
Example: for new buildings, if they meet specified energy requirements, give them a 1% lower mortgage rate. If they are net energy producers, give them a 2% lower interest rather than otherwise. The government pays the difference.
Example: offer a rebate for people to buy cars that are fuel efficient beyond a certain level.
Example: do a car buy back of the worst 10% polluting/fuel inefficient cars.
Example: give public transit authorities a 10% budget increase with a mandate to increase service.
Example: California doesn't have enough fire fighters. Offer to pay to increase the size of the fire fighting corps by 50%.