Update (2/8/09): Harvard economics professor Robert Barro on the stimulus bill:
This is probably the worst bill that has been put forward since the 1930s. I don't know what to say. I mean it's wasting a tremendous amount of money. It has some simplistic theory that I don't think will work, so I don't think the expenditure stuff is going to have the intended effect. I don't think it will expand the economy. And the tax cutting isn't really geared toward incentives. It's not really geared to lowering tax rates; it's more along the lines of throwing money at people. On both sides I think it's garbage. So in terms of balance between the two it doesn't really matter that much.
As the stimulus bill, officially termed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, currently moving through the Senate was being passed by a House divided sharply along partisan lines, a National Review columnist thought conservatives should tag the bill with a nickname; something that more accurately described the colossal mess the bill had become. I am neither intelligent nor creative enough to come up with such a name so, instead, I merely threw in a few adjectives in front of stimulus to more accurately convey the true nature of the bill. Hence, I coined the legislation, “The Democrats’ Hasty, Porkified, Debtulicious, Stimulus Bill.” Allow me to explain:
It’s the Democrats’ Bill
This bill belongs entirely to the Democrats. When it went up to vote in the House it passed by a margin of 244 to 188 with not one Republican voting for the bill. In fact, since several Democrats voted against the bill, one could say the bill was marked by bipartisan opposition and not support. Is it a victory for Obama and the Democrats? Yes, but as the Telegraph reports
, it’s a hollow victory:
Without a single Republican voting for the bill, his high-profile visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday came to exactly naught - at least on the House side.
Obama vowed to change Washington and usher in a new post-partisan era. The mood music and optics were pitch perfect as he trekked up to the Hill. Republicans praised his gesture, welcomed his sincere demeanour and appreciated his willingness to listen.
Problem was, he wanted only to listen and did not want to act on what Republicans said…
No doubt Obama will indeed get beaten up on Fox News. But his failure to get even the squishiest moderate Republican - including the 11 entertained in the White House by Rahm Emanuel last night - to back him is not merely a big score for Rep Eric Cantor, Republican Whip, and the rest of the GOP leadership.
It also shows that it is not just Fox, the loony Right or Rush Limbaugh - or however else you might want to characterise the opposition in order to marginalise it - who had grave misgivings about the content of the bill.
Republicans were willing to compromise, too. Even Rush Limbaugh, the Right’s self-proclaimed bombastic spokesman, came up with a reasonable compromise.
Hence we bid adieu to the post-partisan age and “the stimulus bill” becomes “the Democrats’ stimulus bill.”
President Obama and the Democrats are urging quick action on the stimulus package. Obama recently stated
, “I don't expect 100% agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people's business…The main message I have is that the statistics every day underscore the urgency of the economic situation. The American people expect action.”
It’s a typical political ploy. A majority party will often vastly overstate the need for a particular bill before the press and the public have time to thoroughly review its contents. Mike Huckabee explains:
Hence “the Democrats’ stimulus bill” becomes the “Democrats’ hasty stimulus bill.”
There’s enough pork in this bill to make Oscar Meyer blush. After thoroughly breaking down the bill into different spending categories, Jim Manzi concludes, “It sounds to me like a wish list for the left wing of the Democratic Party.” Not even the tax cuts written into the bill seem to be that good as they “are mostly a combination of disguised redistribution, social welfare and environmental spending disguised as tax credits, and the kind of rigged changes to investment expensing that have made the U.S. corporate tax the shining model of effectiveness and fairness that it is today.”
In its original form, there was even $335 million marked for STD prevention which House Speaker Pelosi futilely, and rather ineloquently, tried defending:
The final bill was privately agreed by most and publicly conceded by many to be a big, messy, largely off-point and philosophically chaotic piece of legislation. The Congressional Budget Office says only 25% of the money will even go out in the first year. This newspaper [Wall Street Journal], in its analysis, argues that only 12 cents of every dollar is for something that could plausibly be called stimulus.
What was needed? Not pork, not payoffs, not eccentric base-pleasing, group-greasing forays into birth control as stimulus, as the speaker of the House dizzily put it before being told to remove it.
But the “stimulus” package is just politics as usual with a few extra zeroes on the end. Will you notice anything? No. Don’t get your hopes up. If you’re broke now, you’ll be broke in October. The Congressional Budget Office estimates only 25 percent of it will be spent by early next year. The other 75 percent is as stimulating as the gal in the Nancy Pelosi Pussycat Lounge telling you she had such a good time she’s penciled in a second date for spring 2010. A third of all the spending won’t come until after 2011.
The Wall Street Journal estimates that only $0.12 of every dollar is actually going towards stimulating the economy. Hence “the Democrats’ hasty stimulus bill” becomes “the Democrats’ hasty, porkified stimulus bill.”
Meaning we don’t have any of this money. It’s all being borrowed; every single penny. The total tab, when all is said and done, will probably amount to more than a trillion dollars. It is larger than the total combined cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan thus far. And, while the current plan is being advertised as costing about $890 billion, that does not take into account the interest that will have to be paid on the debt. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the interest will make the plan cost closer to $1.17 trillion. Hence “the Democrats’ hasty, porkified stimulus bill” becomes “the Democrats’ hasty, porkified, debtulicious stimulus bill.”
This bill is nothing short of horrendous. I am quickly wondering where all my liberal friends who swore they were fiscally responsible and wanted nothing more than to pay down the national deficit and debt have disappeared to. Where is the outrage and anger on the left?
But, if this fraudulent “stimulus” does pass, it will, in fact, de-stimulate, and much more than the disastrous protectionist measures of the Thirties did: Back then, America was dealing with a far less globalized economy, and with far fewer competitors…It’s a massive expansion of the state in the same direction that has brought sclerosis to Europe. A report issued last week in London found that government spending now accounts for 49 percent of the U.K. economy—and in the Celtic corners of the kingdom the state’s share of the economy is way higher, from 71.6 percent in Wales to 77.6 percent in Northern Ireland. In the western world, countries that were once the crucible of freedom are slipping remorselessly into a thinly disguised serfdom in which an ever-higher proportion of your assets are annexed by the state as super-landlord.
In some ways it is much easier to be a member of the minority party than the majority. As a writer it is so easy to poke fun at and criticize the lame liberal policies and plans. In other ways, though, it is far more disheartening and discouraging. As a father, knowing my children will be feeling the ramifications to this bill for the rest of their lives is just depressing. And there’s nothing funny about that.