The cracked stimulus crystal ball

Ignite spending? In the months since the stimulus bill passed, consumer spending has hardly budged so far this year, and is up just over 3 percent compared with February2009, according to a report this week from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Nor has business spending exactly been on fire — the opposite, in fact, seems to be happening, with big companies hoarding cash.

Unleash innovation? And a report released this week by Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and John McCain finds that instead of unleashing waves of innovation, the stimulus has unleashed plenty of frivolous, wasteful and in some cases fraudulent projects. Among them: a new sidewalk that ends in a ditch; new windows for a visitors center that’s been closed for three years; more than a third of a million dollars in stimulus money spent promoting other stimulus projects; and the current favorite — $144,541 for research into how cocaine affects monkeys that created less than one half of one job (0.43 to be exact).