The Wall Street Journal calls it the “40-year Wish List”. Michelle calls it the “Generational Theft Act”. Others have started calling it the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Debt Act. Whatever name one gives it, the least likely is stimulus. The WSJ calculates that no more than 12 cents on the dollar in the trillion-dollar whale goes to actual economic stimulus, and that the rest go to Democratic wish lists for electoral advantage:
We’ve looked it over, and even we can’t quite believe it. There’s $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn’t turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There’s even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.
In selling the plan, President Obama has said this bill will make “dramatic investments to revive our flagging economy.” Well, you be the judge. Some $30 billion, or less than 5% of the spending in the bill, is for fixing bridges or other highway projects. There’s another $40 billion for broadband and electric grid development, airports and clean water projects that are arguably worthwhile priorities.
Add the roughly $20 billion for business tax cuts, and by our estimate only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus. And even many of these projects aren’t likely to help the economy immediately. As Peter Orszag, the President’s new budget director, told Congress a year ago, “even those [public works] that are ‘on the shelf’ generally cannot be undertaken quickly enough to provide timely stimulus to the economy.”
The bill contains a hefty increase in subsidies for public transportation. Will that stimulate the economy? Not really, but it does protect public-sector jobs, almost all union positions, and that helps Democrats get more union money. It’s the Democratic Party Stimulus Act, not a recipe for economic revival.
The Journal discovers another “lu-lu” in public transportation, but not the kind you’d expect. Congress wants to spend $600 million on new cars for federal agencies. Do you have the money to buy a new car in 2009? Well, you won’t if this bill passes, but apparently a few thousand federal employees will enjoy that luxury, thanks to your tax dollars.
Remember when Barack Obama promised to end ineffective government programs in his inaugural speech? That was just eight days ago. Apparently, we’ve hit the expiration date:
As for the promise of accountability, some $54 billion will go to federal programs that the Office of Management and Budget or the Government Accountability Office have already criticized as “ineffective” or unable to pass basic financial audits. These include the Economic Development Administration, the Small Business Administration, the 10 federal job training programs, and many more.
The Department of Education gets a whopping $66 billion in this bill. In 2001, the federal government spent $35 billion in total in the Department of Education, and by 2006 the Bush administration raised it to $85 billion, almost tripling the outlay. Now Congress wants to add $66 billion on top of what we’ve already budgeted for the DoE, a figure that almost doubles the entire 2001 DoE budget from just eight years ago. Will it stimulate the economy? Not at all. It pays off a Democratic Party constituency.
Congress should be embarrassed by this kind of naked political exploitation of economic crisis. Unfortunately, they’re not. It’s up to us to embarrass them. Time to Melt the Phones in DC. Michelle has the details.