The economic stimulus plan has a price tag within shouting distance of $1 trillion. So what does that mindboggling amount of money buy the nation?

If you want more specific answers than infrastructure, job creation and health care coverage, dig into Readthestimulus.org. A joint and worthy project of several conservative organizations -- among them the Heritage Foundation and the National Taxpayers Union -- the website allows taxpayers to read the actual text of the current legislation and then post comments. The goal is to unleash an army of citizen watchdogs and bloggers. The site's slogan sums it up nicely: "$850 Billion, 1588 pages, and counting... somebody needs to read it!"

Fair warning. This is not light reading. Here's an excerpt:

"FISCAL YEAR 2009.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including the final rule published on August 8, 2008, 73 Federal Register 46464 et seq., relating to Medicare Program; Hospice Wage Index for Fiscal Year 2009, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall not phase out or eliminate the budget neutrality adjustment factor in the Medicare hospice wage index before October 1, 2009, and the Secretary shall recompute and apply the final Medicare hospice wage index for fiscal year 2009 as if there had been no reduction in the budget neutrality adjustment factor."

Got that?

And the comments, well, there are some enlightened ones. The rest are probably not the high-level discussion those who launched the project envisioned. Still, anything that gets citizens involved and shines a light on this massive legislation and how the nation is spending borrowed billions is a good idea.

JILL BURCUM

BARBS FROM BRITAIN

U.K. weighs in on our Senate race

The Economist lightly tweaked Minnesota this week as the British news magazine updated readers on the never-ending Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.

According to the magazine, the state is "stuck in 2008'' as the rest of the nation puts the fractious election year behind it. The short piece offers little hope that the contest will end soon, noting that the trial will stretch out for weeks and likely be followed by an appeal. Ubiquitous political pundit Larry Jacobs of the University of Minnesota argues that the recount, while slow, is very thorough. And, he said, it's a "very positive model for other states to consider.'' The writer's skepticism about that is summed up in the story's tart comeback of a conclusion: "Minnesotans can only hope that their model some day produces a senator.''

JILL BURCUM