With almost $200 billion in new spending coming up for votes in Congress this week — most of it violating the Pay-Go rule Democrats passed in an orgy of self-congratulation earlier this year — some members have suddenly wondered whether profligate spending is really such a good idea. Given the mood of the electorate at the moment, it’s not surprising that the skeptics include the very same Democrats that considered Pay-Go the height of fiscal responsibility, just before they began exempting themselves from it repeatedly. Like any addict, as the Washington Post notes a few paragraphs into the story, the Democrats just can’t see how to quit now — and for good reason (emphasis mine):
Still, House leaders view the spending package scheduled to reach the floor Tuesday as must-pass legislation, saying it would shore up support among key constituencies heading into the November elections. In addition to renewing a laundry list of popular tax credits and deductions, the measure would extend unemployment benefits through the rest of this year and set aside $24 billion to help states close huge budget gaps without layoffs or new taxes. The package would also direct nearly $6 billion to finance summer jobs and settle discrimination lawsuits against the Agriculture Department — both are top priorities among black lawmakers.
That takes a special kind of denial in this election cycle. The mood of the country has turned against profligate spending. Nancy Pelosi has practically given birth single-handedly to the Tea Party movement by hiking annual federal spending more than a trillion dollars since taking the Speaker’s gavel in January 2007. And Democrats think that even more spending will win them the midterm elections?
In fact, the spending is not just directly damaging their standing with voters, it’s also indirectly damaging it through the failure of their attempts to manipulate the economy:
Congressional budget analysts have yet to calculate the price of the package, but senior Democratic aides said it could approach $200 billion, most of it unpaid for by new revenue. Among the big-ticket items is a proposal to postpone until 2014 a scheduled pay cut for doctors who see Medicare patients. While many members favor the delay, its $65 billion cost is causing heartburn in both parties.
Many Democrats also are scrutinizing emergency spending on the economy. Dahlkemper, facing a well-funded Republican car dealer in the blue-collar district she seized from the GOP in 2008, said businesses back home complain that they want to start hiring but are getting few applicants because Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits.
Well, that’s totally unexpected, isn’t it? Wasn’t it Nancy Pelosi who advised people to quit their jobs and become artists, writers, cowboys, ballerinas, and circus clowns? Thanks to the nanny state, no one has to worry about working again! And thankfully, Pelosi can count on the producers to carry the non-producers. For now.
Speaking of which, the new bill contains yet another bailout of states in the form of education funding:
The Obama administration is urging lawmakers to add $23 billion in that bill to help cash-strapped officials avoid laying off up to 300,000 public school teachers this summer.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has argued that teacher layoffs would not only create hardships for dismissed educators and their students but also “create a new drag on the economy” at a time when unemployment is hovering near 10 percent. White House economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers called the money “very important” after meeting with Senate Democrats last week.
Hey, weren’t those jobs “saved” by Porkulus? Well, not exactly. Like I have been arguing for the last year, the bloc grants to the states allowed them to paper over budget gaps and avoid trimming bureaucrats from the state employment rolls. These efforts were almost always couched in terms of saving the jobs of teachers and first responders, but the states have other choices for their budget cuts. Porkulus only postponed the inevitable, and now we’re going to see a demand for second round of funding to “save or create” the same jobs claimed by the Obama administration the first time around.
Spending is an addiction. Democrats need a 12-step program of some sort, but fortunately voters only need a one-step program in November to send them into permanent rehab.