No Consensus on ‘Stimulus’ Bill

February 9, 2009

President Barack Obama has done more in the first three weeks of his presidency to validate the suspicions of his critics than I thought possible. But of all his objectionable actions, nothing compares to his falsely labeled “stimulus” bill, which he is trying to force upon us with fear and deception.

Just consider his smug assertion that “there is no disagreement that we need action by our government to jump-start the economy.”

Maybe Mr. Obama has been cooped up in the White House too long and hasn’t seen the dissent, such as that expressed in a strong protest letter signed by umpteen respected economists: “With all due respect Mr. President, that is not true. Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance.” The letter cites the failed record of “stimulus” spending in the Depression era and in Japan in the 1990s and recommends lower tax rates and reduced government as the best remedies.

But even if you accept Obama’s disputed premise that spending is the panacea, his bill fails his own criteria. It’s just smoke and mirrors aimed at blurring his larger goal of radically restructuring the economy. But he pleads urgency anyway, as if he were trying to set speed records for breaking faith with the electorate.

The blogger Calafia Beach Pundit trenchantly observed: “Very little of the bill involves immediate stimulus or anything that might be actually stimulative; only a little over 10 percent of the money gets spent this fiscal year, and about 30 percent gets spent next fiscal year. … About 30 percent of the money goes to transfer payments. … Only $20 billion would be spent over the next 18 months on highway construction; and about 20 percent of the bill doesn’t get spent until 2012-19.”

Obama already lost his fabled cool while angrily wagging his finger at us from the Democratic retreat in Virginia (exemplifying that bipartisanship he promised), scoffing at the charge that his bill was all about government spending.

He said: “What do you think a stimulus is? It’s spending. That’s the whole point!”

With all due respect, sir, that’s not the whole point. Even the “nonpartisan” Congressional Budget Office and your fellow Keynesians concede that not all spending has the same stimulative effect. But we know you know that, sir, and that you are not about to let this “crisis go to waste.” You have loaded up this bill with your party’s pent-up wish list of pet pork projects and political payoffs: $345 million for Agriculture Department computers, $650 million for TV converter boxes, $15 billion for college scholarships, and untold, obscene amounts for ACORN-like “community organizing” causes.

Making matters worse, the CBO concluded that the bill would hurt the economy more in the long run than if we did nothing. Even if the spending helped stimulate in the short run, there would be so much additional government debt within a few years that it would crowd out private investment.

Worse still, The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector says that of the $816 billion in new spending (based on the House bill), $264 billion (32 percent) of it “is new means-tested welfare spending,” representing “about $6,700 in new welfare spending for every poor person in the U.S.”

Outraged yet? Well, brace yourself, because Rector says: “The bill sets in motion another $523 billion in new welfare spending that is hidden by budgetary gimmicks. … The total 10-year extra welfare cost is likely to be $787 billion.”

So here we are, poised to have this fraudulent, socialistic legislative monstrosity crammed down our throats that A) many reputable economists dispute will stimulate; B) is the type of disastrous remedy tried and failed in the 1930s and more recently in Japan and surely would exacerbate and prolong this recession; C) even Keynesians would agree contains non-stimulative pork; D) would plunge us so much further into debt that we should all be brought before criminal tribunals to answer to our children; and E) President Obama has ominously bragged is only a down payment on further Draconian measures he plans to unleash in the future.

Social commentators have observed that baby boomers are spoiled, self-indulgent narcissists. I’ll say. If this legislation doesn’t prove that, nothing will. When will we learn we are not gods who can spare ourselves of all pain with some magic bullet fired from our self-proclaimed genius?

Isn’t it time we grow up, discard our hedonism, assume accountability and quit trying to buy our way out of this mess with our children’s money?