There was good news and bad news in the the House Democrat’s latest so-called stimulus plan. The good news is that the bill’s authors heeded the skepticism shared by many fiscal conservatives, and resisted the intense campaign of many lobbyists to make a massive spending commitment to transportation infrastructure – only about 7 percent of proposed spending is for transportation. Conservatives argued that an infrastructure spending plan would have only a limited impact on jobs and the recovery because such projects take many months to get off the ground and many years to complete, and thus offer little immediate relief in this most difficult of times for the economy and its workers.
This bit of good news, unfortunately, was more than offset, indeed overwhelmed, by the other 93 percent of the spending plans included in the proposal. As currently constituted, the House plan is little more than a massive bailout of failed government programs and failed governments, and also extends the federal government deep into new areas of responsibility like public school construction and broadband investment, from which it may never extract itself, even after the economy revives. From public housing, to the Economic Development Administration, to the Rural Utility Service, to the Community Development Block Grants, to the National Endowment for the Arts, and a host over other federal program petitioners and congressional subcommittees, it appears the authors of the bill went on a search for every useless and ineffective federal program they could find, and then threw billions of taxpayer dollars at them.
As currently constituted Obama’s trillion dollar spending plan represents a massive and unprecedented peacetime transfer of wealth and income from the beleaguered taxpayers to a bloated public sector. And by its emphasis on failed programs, it also represents an unprecedented peacetime destruction of wealth that our weakened economy can ill afford.
But that, regrettably, is the least of its harmful effects. As questionable as the many transportation infrastructure schemes would be at goosing economic activity in the private sector, this plan does even less. And at a time of economic peril, it will likely make things worse by absorbing massive volumes of scarce resources and credit that might better be deployed in the nation’s already badly deprived, and federally-mismanaged, credit markets. As a consequence, a year from now we will still be looking at a very weak economy, and Congress will be contemplating an even larger bailout of government. And soon we will find ourselves living in the kind of desultory economy more common to that of continental Europe than the vibrant American economy that has made us the most prosperous and dynamic nation on earth.
With this at stake, Congress has offered a history-changing challenge to the new President, and in his first week in office he must decide whether the voters put him there for a purpose no better than validating a massive congressional fraud on the nation’s workers. Destiny beckons Mr. President.