Recession fears have caused both President Bush and Congressional Democrats to call for an enormous stimulus package to give the economy a lift. The basic idea of most of our political leaders is a one-time tax cut that will put a relatively small amount of money in the hands of a lot of consumers (and, to be fair, maybe businesses too, depending on the proposal) to encourage them to go out and buy more DVD players, restaurant meals, movie tickets, and other small luxuries that no one really needs but might keep the economy limping along.
Assuming arguendo that a stimulus package is a good idea, why not use the money to invest in the country's crumbling infrastructure? It's no secret that our roads, bridges, and public transportation systems are falling apart, that we're behind much of the developed world in internet-age infrastructure like broadband and wireless capability. Investing in these types of things would not only provide lots of jobs here in the U.S., it would help promote future economic growth — something that won't happen if we give everyone $800 and tell them to go to the mall. In addition, or alternatively, we could invest some of the stimulus budget in homeland security improvements that have shamefully been ignored, such as protecting ports and chemical plants. This type of investment could help avoid future economic dislocations that would likely result from terrorist attacks by reducing the likelihood of such attacks.
I'm no macroeconomics expert, so I encourage those readers who are to explain if I am missing something important here. Do note, though, that I'm not taking a position on whether taxes are generally too high or too low, just on what is the best way to spend a one-time amount specifically designed to pump cash into the economy to (hopefully) ward off a recession.