While many ordinary Americans wondered last week what Santa Claus was going to leave for them under the Christmas tree, many American mayors were wondering how much money President-elect Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress will take from taxpayers to hand over to them.
"We're not intending to spend money lightly," Obama said at a Dec. 19 press conference.
No, he intends to spend it heavily. On CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Obama adviser David Axelrod said, "We've talked about a package from $675 billion to $775 billion."
Congressional Democrats reportedly would like to boost that to $850 billion. In 1972, according to the Office of Management and Budget, President Nixon approved an entire federal budget that was only $857 billion (in inflation-adjusted fiscal-year 2000 dollars).
How would Obama spend all this money? Serving liberal ideology and interests.
Lawrence Summers, who will head Obama's National Economic Council, explained Obama's strategy in an op-ed piece in Sunday's Washington Post.
"Investments in an array of areas -- including energy, education, infrastructure and health care -- offer the potential of extraordinarily high social returns while allowing our country to address some longstanding national challenges and put our economy on a solid footing for years to come," wrote Summers.
A smart mayor looking for a Summers-inspired federal Santa to hand him a big pot of tax dollars might try to work up the perfectly Obama-correct stimulus project -- one that hits energy, education, infrastructure and health care all at once, like, say, building something for a health-care education facility that helps save the planet by reducing America's carbon footprint.
As it happens, the U.S. Conference of Mayors published a 1,557-page report on Dec. 19, listing 15,221 "local infrastructure projects" that the mayors of 641 cities say they have "ready to go" as soon as Obama and Congress can send them the cash.
I took a look at the document to see if any city had struck upon the perfectly Obama-correct "stimulus" proposal. I did not find one -- although I cannot say I carefully studied all 15,221 proposals (a chore I will leave to the famous due diligence of Congress).
Edwardsville, Ala., came close, however.
Page 1,355 of the report says Edwardsville would like $37 million to build an "electric solar enhanced scenic railroad line for support of local vineyards and tourism" that "duals as transport for district schools."