[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/29/stimulus.bill.smoking/art.smoking.image.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Tom Harkin's office says smoking causes $110 billion in health costs each year."]
CNN Special Investigations Unit
Just about every line of the huge stimulus bill contains millions intended for what democrats are calling job creation and what republicans are calling waste: arguments based on differing political philosophies? Perhaps.
But who could argue that millions spent to stop smoking is going to create jobs.
Well, apparently Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. He is asking for 75-million dollars for just that to be added to the stimulus bill.
Why? That’s exactly what I asked him.
Here’s the conversation:
Sen. Tom Harkin/D-Iowa:
“This is the American recovery and re-investment act so its not, it is stimulus, we do want to put people to work right away, but we also want to lay a solid foundation for strong economic growth in the future."
"Senator it just seems like this is not the bill. we are trying to get the economy moving we are trying to get people back to work, and I am having a hard time understanding how 75 million to tell people to stop smoking is going to put anybody back to work."
“Well first of all I will tell you we have put over five billion dollars in this bill on prevention.
So that we can get ahead of the curve and cutting healthcare costs."
“Senator, I have got to be skeptical because what I think I am hearing is ‘yes we want to get people off of smoking, but here you go Joe, you’re out of work, but by golly at least your not smoking?’”
"Well that’s why we are doing two things in this bill, we are putting people back to work with infrastructure projects, news schools and stuff like that, but we are also investing, investing in a sound recovery in the future."
“At the end of this you are going to get your $75 million, how many people are you going to stop from smoking?”
“Well, I don’t know, the money goes to the secretary of health and human services and that will go out to various programs that are effective, that are proven effective in the past. I can’t give you a number right now but for every, for every, I don’t know the exact number, but for every ten dollars or so we spend on smoking cessation programs, we can see the effect of people getting off of smoking."
I think we will all be able to understand this if we just extend the name of this stimulus bill.
Call it the “American Recovery and Re-investment (and no smoking) Act”.
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