Hoping for a Soft Landing in the Mother of All Pork Barrels
The last thing I expected of the new Messiah was change. President Obama is an Illinois politician. The traditions of pork and payoff, logrolling and back-scratching run deep in the Land of Lincoln. It’s not the cream that rises to the top of the political caldron in the Windy City, it’s something more akin to what covers a stagnant pond, floating on a froth of taxpayer money. To judge by the “stimulus” package, BHO has taken his political traditions with him to the White House.
One change worth noting, however, is the audacity of Obama’s circumvention of the already barely restrained budgeting process. Mr. Bush wasn’t shy about using fear to get us nodding like bobble head toys at the mention of the evil terists. Obama understands the utility of fear no less than W did. The looming economic “catastrophe” is the reason he must spend a trillion in borrowed money, and right now. Saving the world can’t be delayed by contentious Congressional debate. Any delay would be disastrous. It would give us time to consider what he’s going to do with the money.
The “stimulus” package is nothing more than “super sized” pork and routine spending. The bill is full of new office spaces like the $150 million for the Smithsonian, $500 million for the National Institute for Health, $448 million for a shiny new Homeland Security headquarters, $88 million just to move the Public Health Service. The Park Service, Amtrak, and the Historic Preservation Fund will get billions in unvarnished pork. The bill includes such wacky winners as beekeepers, fish farmers, and mysterious “rural community advancement programs.”
Feel good “progressive” boondoggles will stimulate the economy with $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $300 million to reduce violence against women. And you can bet the girls won’t be getting pistols. There’s no doubt the legions of unemployed will be gratified by cheap museum tickets and splendid public sculpture.
The economy will enjoy whatever growth can be had from $2 billion for child care grants, $15 billion in Pell Grants, and $650 million for digital TV coupons. An ocean of borrowed cash will flow to vague feel good causes like “neighborhood stabilization activities,” whatever they are, and $90 million to educate “vulnerable populations.” What the heck is a “vulnerable population?” I surely don’t know, but we can be certain it won’t include those of us vulnerable to having our pockets picked by politicians.
Old fashioned transfers are big stimulus winners. Medicaid, $89 billion, COBRA insurance, $30 billion, expanded unemployment, $36 billion, and $20 billion in food stamps will flow from people who work to people who vote in the name of stimulating the economy.
Deeply senseless green technologies, too stupid or inefficient to make it in the free market, will be subsidized with tens of billions of borrowed dollars.
Unfortunately, I could go on at some length. The bill runs to over 1500 pages and doesn’t get any better. The worst of it is that the whole premise is flawed. Billions will be taken from the productive economy, or more accurately, borrowed for that economy to pay back, to reward the economic stupidity and irresponsibility of both private citizens and their elected governments.
The pain is simply being spread from the reckless to the responsible. A thrifty homeowner who didn’t take out a second mortgage will be punished to rescue one who hocked his home to the chimney top to buy a second one, which he then hocked as well. Uncle Sam will plunder the relatively prudent citizens of Boise to relieve the profligate of Springfield. The whole scheme is like barbecuing ants so grasshoppers don’t have to go hungry.
Driving this engine of moral hazard is the seductive notion that government can somehow make us wealthier by borrowing money and blowing it. The sad truth, however, is that what is true of you and your family, is also true of a society. You can’t spend yourself rich.
People get rich by earning more than they spend and investing the difference productively. So do societies. For generations America has been spending more than it earns and investing what it could borrow in wildly unproductive items like sushi, flat screen TVs, granite countertops, and stock in waycoolkillerapp.com. What we’re experiencing now is the unavoidable reckoning that follows such a reckless binge.
No amount of borrowing and spending will stop the reckoning from occurring. Government is a net drain on the economy no matter what it does. Government produces nothing. Whatever it gives to one person, it must take from another, either living or yet unborn. Even if he could tap dance across the Potomac, the only thing Obama could do to stimulate the economy is make the government a good deal smaller. We’re in no danger of that.
“Government stimulus” enjoys a 60% approval rating among We the People, proving that Americans remain delusional, our prospects in free fall, but full of hope for a soft landing in the mother of all pork barrels.