Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sheep's Clothing

I was feeling a little yucky earlier this week…like the economy, I guess, but in my case due to a new chemotherapy. I’m hoping the chemo is better targeted to shrink my lymph nodes than is the current version of the stimulus package to wake up the economy.

The more I read about the proposed stimulus, the more I think a paraphrase of Elizabeth Barrett Browning is in order: “How much do I hate thee? Let me count the ways….” And then you can take your pick:

1. It won’t work. The Wall Street Journal estimates that business tax cuts ($20 billion) plus $90 billion of genuine stimulus spending add up to only 12 cents of each of the 825 billion dollars in the package. And $825 billion is (a.) “almost equal to the entire cost of annual federal spending under Congress’s discretion” and (b.) more than the entire cost of Bush’s Iraq War. Maybe the public could find this a little more palatable if Congress took an extended furlough for eight years (without pay).

2. It’s more about changing us than changing the economic doldrums. The remaining 87% of the stimulus package fulfills a wish list of socialist and “green” projects from $4.19 billion for “neighborhood stabilization activities” (read ACORN and agitprop) to $8 billion for renewable energy funding (exclude nuclear) to $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts to $400 million for chimerical research into global warming to $335 million for STD prevention etc. etc. etc.

The objection here moves beyond “can we afford it?” or “will it work?” to “do we want it?” Read Kimberley Strassel’s “Democratic Stealth Care” ( ) on the bill’s major enlargement of government’s foot print in our lives…to be accomplished without public (or Congressional) debate.

How many who voted for Barack Obama last November intended to move on to socialism? Maybe it’s the 42% (Rasmussen Poll) who support the stimulus plan, or maybe it’s the (my guess) 10% or so of these who have actually looked into it…or the 0% (including Congress and the president) who have actually read its 647 pages?

3. It’s more of the same, not change we have hoped for. Wish list projects include $66 billion for education. Consider this a great big thank you to the National Education Association for its endorsement of Barack Obama in November’s election (and to those who still believe, naively, that throwing money at schools improves education). This is money to shore up the status quo, and the status quo is dismal. Our schools need seed money to support change, not billions to support stagnant administration and frustrated or lethargic teachers, to say nothing about state governments whose “for the children” projects need a bailout.

4. It tackles problems backwards. The wish list contains $2.1 billion for Head Start or pre-K childcare, yet studies have shown the Head Start program has had little lasting benefit in educational results, according to The Heritage Foundation ( Why not consider instead the Republican proposal to increase the child deduction on the income tax to $5,000 per child…or even the $7,500 that Head Start currently spends per child. This would put money into parents’ pockets, and they could spend it as they determine is best for their kids’ development.

5. It paints a picture of The Ugly American and encourages tit for tat. Before I grow tired of listing its faults, I’ve got to mention the stimulus bill’s adverse effect on world trade. “Buy American” is a you-can-guess-how-poor a way to thrive in a world economy. Look at China’s economy before its despotic rulers opened the door to commerce with the rest of the world. Like it or not, it’s a world economy today, not simply a national economy. And because the U.S. economy is so big, what we do here has serious effect internationally.

Barack Obama was elected on creating a more positive attitude toward the U.S. overseas. He may discover that allowing Democrat protectionist policies to disrupt trade and hit foreign partners in the pocketbook may win fewer friends than overthrowing a genocidal tyrant in Iraq.

And there’s domestic pain as well. Democrats have been more than indifferent to passing a free trade agreement with Columbia that would greatly benefit, for one, Caterpillar, manufacturer of heavy construction and mining equipment, with customers in 200 countries around the world (according to the company website). To sell an earthmover to Columbia without the dormant-or-dead Columbia free trade pact, the company must pay in the neighborhood of $100,000 in tariffs, hardly profitable. Recently, Caterpillar has sought to move into the Chinese market to offset the slowing U.S. economy, but a growing chilliness over trade jeopardizes this venture and the company’s earnings have suffered, threatening the jobs of 12,000 American workers and 8,000 American contractors, according to Investor’s Business Daily (1/26).

This list could go on and on. Robert Samuelson writes in IBD (1/30) that “the decision by Obama and Democratic congressional leaders to load the stimulus with so many partisan projects is politically shrewd and economically suspect. The president’s claims of bipartisanship were mostly a sham…Obama’s political strategy fails to address adequately the economy’s present needs while also worsening the long-term budget outlook…. There were tough choices to be made—and Obama ducked them all.” Well said, n'est-ce pas?

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