Iain Murray on the Anti-Stimulus

On behalf of my distinguished colleague Iain Murray, who is busy speaking at a very important press conference this morning, let me present his prepared remarks on the impending stimulus bill:

Remarks of Iain Murray, Director of Projects and Analysis, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Good morning. Others have already told you what an unutterable waste of money this so-called stimulus package is. I just want to make two points. First, that the American people have been misled about the nature of the bill, and been sold a pig in a poke. Second, that if you really want to stimulate economic activity, there is a very simple way to do it that doesn’t cost a penny; we call it “liberate to stimulate.”

The American people were told that this bill would give Americans jobs as a result of great public works projects. It won’t. Congress and the Agencies have between them made it very difficult to undertake great infrastructure projects, and impossible to do it quickly. That’s why almost all the supposed “shovel-ready” projects in the bill are maintenance projects and the like. If you thought Americans would be building roads, only 3 percent of the Senate stimulus package is for roads. Only 7 percent is for new infrastructure in general.

As for so-called “green energy,” the much-vaunted aim of doubling alternative energy can be achieved by business-as-usual, so little energy is provided by wind and solar. My colleague Jonathan Tolman and I also worked out that the House bill contains just about $6.4 billion aimed at creating “green jobs,” and only 70,000 would be created. This bill is not what was advertised.

So how can we stimulate the economy? As I mentioned, Congress has made it very difficult to build infrastructure. It needs to lift those restrictions. Gov. Schwarzenegger and three former California governors have all complained about the restrictions of the National Environmental Policy Act causing misallocations of infrastructure funding. Those restrictions need to be removed, as Gov. Schwarzenegger has asked. Similarly, we need clean electric power, and we need large amounts of it, but it takes ten years or more to break ground on a nuclear power plant. If the regulators sped up the permitting process like they’re doing in the UK, then we could get moving on new nuclear build very quickly. Those sorts of reforms don’t cost anything, and can get America back to work, which is what we all want to see.

Check out more on the topic under the “Deregulate to Stimulate” category.