When Nancy Pelosi pushed Porkulus through on a party-line vote in the House and Harry Reid could only get three Republicans in the Senate, the GOP opposed the bill because it wouldn’t stimulate a nymphomaniac stripper on a Friday night. The bill almost entirely consisted of nothing more than a laundry list of Democratic pork and progressive wish lists that had been circulating around Capitol Hill for years. The Washington Post highlights one of the most prominent of the Porkulus programs, a $25 billion “energy efficiency” program that proves the point:
In Baltimore, the 300 block of East 23 1/2 Street is getting patched up in time for winter. One economic stimulus program is paying to insulate 11 rental rowhouses, another is paying for furnaces and a third is covering the cost for reflective roofs to be installed by prison inmates in a job-training program.
The block is part of one of the biggest initiatives ever undertaken by the federal government, a nationwide push to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. But as the national unemployment rate crosses into the double digits and Republicans question the stimulus program’s impact, the work on East 23 1/2 — even with all of its activity — has so far not produced a single job.
Nine months after Congress passed the $787 billion stimulus package, there is little tangible to show for one of its biggest single areas of investment, the $25 billion energy-efficiency effort. That points to one of the central tensions of President Obama’s landmark stimulus package: His goal was to inject money quickly into the economy while at the same time laying the groundwork for his broader, transformational agenda on energy, education and health care.
The Post doesn’t have that quite right. This program and its zero-jobs output shows that Obama intended to lay the groundwork for a broad progressive agenda that would have the federal government eating up more capital and assuming greater power over the lives of Americans. Not even Obama could sell this as an injection of cash into the economy. Most of the money went to states, which have mainly held onto it while they study the best way to build their bureaucracies on “energy efficiency.”
In fact, the entire issue of “efficiency” is rather ironic in this context. We spent $25 billion on this project from an appropriation intended to create jobs now, not four years from now when the private sector would have already recovered — especially if it had been allowed to keep more of its own money for investment in its own infrastructure. With a total of zero jobs created, the efficiency of this project can be measured in only the most microscopic of terms.
We call this bill Porkulus for a reason. With the exception of the targeted tax breaks, which the Democrats only included to entice rightly skeptical Republicans, nothing in this bill had anything to do with job stimulation. It had everything to do with paying off Democratic special interests and funding pet projects of progressives. The picture used by the Washington Post shows the seriousness of the effort: the big visual of this project is people installing reflectors on roofs. We would have done better to burn the $25 billion for the heat.