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Monday, February 2, 2009

Guest Column: No Stimulation in Stimulus Package

Why spend all day arguing with me? Eager reader Rod Goeman volunteers this critical commentary on the stimulus package!


Sunday's Argus features an opinion article by Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson that chastises House Republicans for voting along party lines regarding the $819 Billion Stimulus Package. His feeling is that at least one Republicans should have jumped on board and voted in favor of this bloated piece of pork.

I would ask a different question. When we look at the projects that have been packaged into this so-called stimulus package, who is getting stimulated? Certainly not our economy. Definitely not our out-of-work citizens. This stimulus package is not geared to jump-start our economy or provide immediate opportunities for employment, even if it is for infrastructure projects.

Look at the list of projects included in the $819 Billion package: $650 Million for digital TV converter boxes, $345 Million for Ag Department computers, $15 Billion in college funding scholarships, $88 Million to move Public Health Service into a new buildings, $870 Million to battle the flu, $400 Million to slow the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases and many more.

Maybe the relevant question should be why no Democrats including our conservative blue dog Dem, Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, voted against this misguided package? This would have been an excellent time for her to flex her young political muscle and gain respect among both parties. I realize that a percentage of crud is going to be packaged into any legislation coming out of Washington, but this stimulus package has no goal or direction. Some of it's old, some of it's new projects. Both parties can share blame for where we are at today and both parties need to be included in the solution. Blaming one party for not voting in favor is just as foolish as blaming the other party for not voting against it.

Here's where our new leader, President Obama, needs to step up, make his line-item veto suggestions and let Chief of Staff Raum Emmanuel start chewing until the President gets his package, his way. If we're going to take a shot at this economy, let's make sure it is a direct shot, not a ricochet that misses its target. Job creation, cash flow to taxpayers and infrastructure projects that begin in weeks, not years, are what will push us forward. The party politics of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid should go out with back door with Dick Cheney's colleagues. Let the new, younger leaders step up to the plate and lead.

—Rod Goeman, 2009.02.01

See? I wasn't the only one doing something other than staring at ads interrupted by instant replay yesterday. Of course, I also wasn't thinking college scholarships and public health are wastes of money.

To stir the pot, here is a relevant clip from the Robinson column to which Goeman refers:

What I've been hearing from Republicans in both the House and Senate has been a kind of attenuated, distorted echo of the economic doctrine that the party has preached, if not always practiced, since the Reagan years. It's perfectly appropriate, of course, to ask whether a specific spending proposal would have the desired stimulative effect; indeed, some items were removed from the stimulus bill for that reason. But underlying the Republican criticism has been a familiar formula: more tax cuts, fewer spending initiatives.

But Americans know that this philosophy has already taken us as far as it could. Americans know that taxes can only be cut by so much before the federal government's effectiveness inevitably suffers. Americans know that that spending money doesn't necessarily mean wasting it. Americans know that the economic crisis means taking the position that government is inherently oppressive, if not fundamentally evil, is now intellectually bankrupt, because government is the only instrument we have in the high-stakes attempt to induce financial and economic recovery [Eugene Robinson, "Obama's Mandate Could End the GOP," via RealClearPolitics, 2009.01.30].

No stimulation in the stimulus package? At least it's stimulating conversation. Economic stimulus: boon or boondoggle? Your comments are welcome!


  1. Right on Rod. But, you forgot about ACORN's money. $4.1 billion so they can reform their voter registration policies. Maybe Corey can refresh our memory on who they registered last year.
    Or maybe we just need to have all the Democrats pay their income taxes. Did you hear Tommy Daschle didn't pay over $100,000 in income tax. Is this the same Tom Daschle that represented South Dakota?
    IF my counting is correct that is TWO cabinet members of Obama's that forgot to pay their taxes.

  2. Great column by Rod Goeman. I agree completely.

    So far the only things I've heard the Dems congragulate themselves on removing from the "stimulus" porky pig bill are the Mall sod and Nancy's condoms et al. I personally think these were red herrings to be used as sacrificial lambs so the Dems could say, "Look, we removed these two objectionable things, OK? Now support this wonderful bill!"

    Let's get real here. We don't have money, fed or state. If we don't have money, we cut back on gov't, we don't expand it. And if it is necessary to stimulate the economy, this isn't the way to do it. You stimulate the economy now by providing money for immediate projects, not by delaying most of it until the next election two years hence. And not by just funneling money into all the Dem's pet projects that they couldn't get passed before now.

    Until O is willing to appoint people to cabinet positions that are honest, until he is willing to stand by his promises to get rid of gov't chicanery, he has no credibility to tell us anything else. We know what Reid and Pelosi want, and it's not what is best for the country, it's what is best for them and their political future and their party.

    A true stimulus bill has a limited amount of money channeled directly to things proven to employ X amount of people immediately in jobs that won't disappear a few months down the road, i.e. the ditch is dug and the workers are out of work again. And it has oversight to prevent waste and fraud. And it has tax breaks, not tax increases.

    But hey, what do I know? I'm just one of the poor schmoe's who pays the bills.

  3. Anon:@7:35 -Read the bill. ACORN's not in it.

    If the stimulus bill is not stimulating then someone forgot to get the memo to the republican governors and major CEOs - they virtually unanimously support it.

  4. No, ACORN might not be in it. But the entity that would get money to ACORN apparently is. They wouldn't dare put their own name in there.

    And I don't trust any CEO any further than I can toss them, i.e. I don't care what you want. I care about the debt we are leaving our future population and the pork in the bill.

  5. It is a huge disappointment. We were counting on them to use the money wisely but prove they can't let go of their agenda for a common goal. We need focused stimulus, not more debt for Democratic led programs. You should have heard Pelosi stammering to justify parts of this bill. She sounded almost as bad as Sarah Palin. They are so out of touch.

  6. Anon 7:40: actually, I think restoring the National Mall is a fine idea. It would put people to work with shovels right now.

    But notice that sometimes you just can't win. Dems pass a bill, you say they won't listen. Dems listen and compromise on useful projects, you say they're just playing tricks. And Anon 7:35 wallows in ACORN (the group John McCain supported). Oh well. You guys keep whining; Dems will keep solving problems.

    (Speaking of whining and ignoring real problems, read Frank Rich on the irrelevance of the GOP.)

  7. Restoring the National Mall sounds great but is unrealistic if you are going to continue using it for public events. I was just there this past fall. There was an event there that weekend with lots of people milling around. The election had people literally all over the Mall. If you resod it, then you need to keep people off it, contrary to how it's being used now. And these shovel ready jobs would be gone the minute the sod is laid and growing. Those type jobs are not what a stimulus should be doing. A stimulus should be stimulating good jobs that are long-lasting, not minimum wage short-lived make work type jobs.

  8. Here's a note of criticism on the stimulus that similarly reminds me of "Buy Madison" and those who didn't like the LAIC hiring someone from out of town to do landscaping work. Working to creating a fair business environment encourages business much more than a few quick bucks. JH

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher warned on Monday against "Buy America" provisions in a proposed fiscal stimulus law and said it could lead to devastating protectionism.

    "Protectionism is the crack cocaine of economics," Fisher told C-Span television in an interview for its "Washington Journal" program.

  9. Anon 10:04: That's the tricky thing about stimulus. No one kind of stimulus will solve the whole problem. Those long-lasting jobs you talk about are important, and we can get them from long-term investments (education, research, etc.). But replacing sod and other shovel-ready jobs put people to work right now and provide the immediate jolt we need to fight the recession. That buys us time to put some planning into the bigger projects. First the short wave, then the long wave. Gotta do it all!

    Or we could just sit here griping and moaning.

    JH: I'm still thinking there's a difference between protectionism in international trade and asking a local quasi-public agency charged with boosting the local economy to spend the money it gets from us as locally as possible. The dynamic of trade between the U.S. and China just isn't the same as the dynamic of trade between Madison and Brandon... is it?

  10. State building projects should be priority for any stimulus funding package as the States know where they need infrastructure development that would create jobs. Hopefully, the 50 Governors are getting elevated status in their requests as they can put the funds to work in the trenches right away this spring.


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