Can Uncle Sam spend cash fast enough?

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Washington bureaucrats have a reputation for being able to spend taxpayer money real fast. But, believe it or not, spending it fast enough is one of the biggest tasks President-elect Barack Obama's economic team faces in putting together an economic recovery measure.

Obama's economic recovery plan depends on swiftly pumping hundreds of billions of federal dollars into the economy to create jobs. The focus is on tax cuts and government spending that can provide an immediate lift to the economy.

However, the $675 billion-$775 billion plan emerging in talks between Obama's team and Democratic allies in Congress also appears to contain lots of money that won't be spent for years — like for water projects, rebuilding the electric grid and buying billions of dollars of computers and software for the health care sector. Much of that money won't get spent until the economy starts growing again.

Some GOP critics say Democrats are simply using the current economic crisis to put money into long-term projects now, rather than in a few years when concerns about record budget deficits might threaten the spending.

"We must ... make distinctions between what is 'stimulus' ... and what is merely more government spending on favored projects we don't need with money we don't have," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

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