The IT industry should be giddy that the House and Senate reconciled their respective versions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with most IT spending provisions intact. Right now, though, the industry seems a little...underwhelmed.

Michael Hickins, Contributor

February 11, 2009

2 Min Read

The IT industry should be giddy that the House and Senate reconciled their respective versions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with most IT spending provisions intact. Right now, though, the industry seems a little...underwhelmed.The deal includes "more than $20 billion in spending on health IT and smart grids, and about $7 billion for broadband expansion," prompting the Wall Street Journal to call the deal "a major win for the high-tech industry." The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation told InformationWeek that nearly 1 million jobs could be created to support health IT, smart energy grids, and broadband expansion.

So who could argue with that kind of manna from heaven?

Lots of people, as it turns out.

Some rural telecom companies and ISPs are complaining that applying for benefits under the act might be too complex, and are chafing under net neutrality language, according to GigaOM's Stacey Higginbotham, who titled her post, "How the Stimulus Package Fails Rural Broadband."

A commentator for Bloomberg News argued that health IT provisions are "dangerous to your health."

Even supporters of health care IT warned that spending should empower regional centers or risk missing a "historic opportunity to achieve quality and efficiency gains through health IT expansion."

Not everyone is as churlish.

John Halamka, the CIO of a major health care organization and chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network, called the bill "a milestone achievement."

So what to think about this disparity of opinions? People say the devil's in the details, but maybe in this case, the devil's in the big picture.

The idea of complaining because the government is going to spend "only" $35 billion on some aspect or other, instead of $40 billion, is absurd on the face of it. In what other lifetime were we going to get anything like that kind of government spending on IT?

No one outside the Treasury even has a calculator that counts to $789 billion. No one understands what those numbers even mean.

I do remember Barack Obama floating the concept of a $700 billion-plus stimulus package back in November.

Then the spending bar was raised to close to a trillion dollars. Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats got their backs up. Compromises were made. Where did we end up?

$700 billion-plus.

If President Obama's original estimates were close to being right, then the spending bill will succeed in creating jobs and lifting the country out of recession. If he was way off, it won't. And no one will have to scrutinize the details to tell the difference.

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