Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stimulus passes

So with House and Senate approval yesterday the stimulus package only awaits President Obama's signature before becoming law. The bill amounts to $792 billion and when interest on the debt is included reaches an astounding $1.14 trillion. It is now clear, if it was ever in doubt, that when Obama refers to hope and change he just means borrow and spend.

At this point I'm past anger, I'm just sad. This isn't about sticking a thumb in Obama's eye or dealing him a setback. I just want what is best for the country and this isn't it. This bill is simply horrendous, expanding government and piling up the debt. As I have told others, I would honestly rather have my taxes increased than have this garbage passed.

But forget about the ideological arguments about the bill -- government spending vs. tax cuts, the record of Keynesian economics, etc. -- and just consider the dynamics that governed the stimulus process:
  • Literally hundreds of billions of dollar are being spent. This was done in a relatively short amount of time without hearings. It defies common sense that such an amount of money can be allocated in a smart and effective fashion with so little planning.
  • Members of Congress had something like 10 hours to read and digest the legislation -- at 1,071 pages -- before voting on it -- and that's assuming no sleep the night before. There is no way that anyone fully read what was in the bill. They didn't even know what they were voting on.
  • Here is a list of everything in the bill. Can anyone look at it -- with everything from "Internet crimes against children initiatives" to "Historically black colleges and universities preservation" -- and argue that there is a coherent narrative or overarching paradigm other than simply spending a bunch of money on various items?
Again, this isn't ideology. Is it possible for a bill undergo the process outlined above and result in a good piece of legislation?

Lastly I will point out that in 1993 Bill Clinton came to office and ushered in a presidency that Democrats will likely remember fondly for some years to come. During that first year Clinton raised taxes to pay down the deficit, passed a $4 billion stimulus bill and expanded free trade with NAFTA. Obama is vastly expanding the deficit with a stimulus package 200 times the size of Clinton's that includes protectionist "Buy American" language.

Basically Obama is taking a very different approach from Clinton on the economy. You can believe in Clinton's approach and you can believe in Obama's but it is hard to agree with both.