Lately, public attention has been focused on President Barack Obama’s budget, fresh out of a much-debated stay in Congress. As the Congressional drama unfolded, the debate over the $787 billion economic stimulus package that Congress passed last month seemed to be fading from the national consciousness. According to The New York Times, the stimulus will be the single biggest expenditure of the U.S. government since World War II. Government intervention is appropriate to help heal the limping economy. Rather than indiscriminately throwing money everywhere, the government is right to concentrate on several key areas. The stimulus package must be used where it’s needed most — the future.

It’s no secret that our U.S. economy is in trouble. The failure of the housing market has left Americans with less money to spend and businesses with less people to serve. As a result, the economy has struggled to stay afloat in recent months. While there is no overnight solution, a responsible increase in government spending could contribute to economic recovery. That means the funds need to go to opportunities that will give the country future returns.

Obama has designated health care, sustainable energy and education as the major recipients of the stimulus. But in the tradition of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who negotiated the country through the Great Depression by making difficult spending decisions, Obama could also direct some of the stimulus money to infrastructure improvements. The “2009 Infrastructure Report Card,” published by the American Society of Civil Engineers, gave the United States a D. On Feb. 14, CNN reported that $48 billion of the stimulus is already dedicated to infrastructure, but that’s far from the $2.2 trillion in repairs the ASCE claimed is needed to reach “adequate conditions.” Funding these upgrades would create jobs and improve the quality of our transportation systems, communities and environmental structures.

To find other long-term solutions to invest in, the federal government should look to Michigan. In our state, Gov. Jennifer Granholm is working to revitalize the failing economy by advocating the expansion of alternative energy, which could be a vital new industry. She has been campaigning for an implementation of green energy options, most notably wind energy. Nationally, a “green economy” will create jobs and more environmentally friendly energy options for consumers, ushering in a new generation of energy technology. Investments in green energy may seem expensive in the short term, but they end up saving money in the long run.

But to realize the goals of more economically and environmentally sound energy practices, a college-educated workforce is essential. To make that happen, every student who is interested in going to college should have the opportunity. While the recent increase in federal funding for Pell Grants is helpful, universities are desperately in need of funds to keep tuition affordable for their students. And while the federal government needs to place an emphasis on making college a cost-effective opportunity for students, primary education can’t be left out of this plan. Public schools across the nation must be adequately funded to ensure that students have a solid foundation for college.

Of all institutions that need health care, Obama has declared the health care system to be the most deserving. He couldn’t be more right — we need a health care system that guarantees every person the right to proper medical treatment. But in addition to saving the nation’s ailing health care system, infrastructure, alternative energy and education are absolutely vital.

At the same time, it would be naïve to assume that the stimulus could fix all of our problems in one fell swoop. But regardless of its limitations, the stimulus can have a positive effect if the federal government invests it with the future in mind.

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