Sounding, at times, like a school teacher lecturing a classroom of mischievous students, President Barack Obama warned a gathering of mayors on Friday that the stimulus money they received better be spent wisely, transparently and without political motives.
"There is an unprecedented responsibility and accountability on all our parts," said Obama. "The American people are watching. They need this plan to work. They expect to see the money that they've earned... I want to be clear about this: we cannot tolerate business was usual. We will use the new tools that the recovery act gives us to watch the taxpayer's money with more rigor and transparency than ever... If a federal agency proposes a project that wastes that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it and put a stop to it. I want everybody here to be on notice that if a local government does the same, I will call them out on it."
There was a scolding tone to the speech. And implicit in it was the notion that local governments have failed in this task in the past.
In addition, Obama seems cognizant of the future traps and binds that the stimulus represents. For better or worse his administration owns the economic recovery package. So while each job saved or created can be chalked up as a political success, so too will each report of corruption, misappropriation, or the lining of pockets with federal largesse be treated as an indictment of the president's big-money proposal.
We have, Obama concluded on Friday, an "unprecedented obligations to spend that money wisely. Free from politics, free from personal agenda."
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