Should the Anti-Stimulus Package be tan or beige?
President Obama more than once last week called it “inexcusable” for Congress to get “bogged down in distraction, delay or politics as usual” over the anti-stimulus legislation. Actually, there never was such a bog-down, since the bill already passed the House by the Democratic majority, and he never needed much Republican support to make a package of substantial magnitude happen in the Senate. Obama is seeking a sheen of bipartisanship, but if he’s convinced it’s right and he occupies the moral high-ground, it’s not entirely clear why he would talk about an imaginary bog-down of what’s become a “faith-based initiative” that no one can or will stop. Obama’s right–he did win in November, as he taunted detractors last week, and nobody can stop him. It’s just curious that he feels the need to seek rivals’ approval of a highly destructive measure like this when it’s a train that can’t (or won’t) be stopped anyway.
I remember a comedy called “Moon Over Parador;” you could vote for the dictator…but only the red-tinted picture of him or the blue-tinted one. That’s how I felt watching the “debate” this past week over the size of the package: The House passed a package of $819 billion; the Senate, after hyped-up wrangling, appears set to vote on one of $780 billion late Monday afternoon. Rounding them, they’re still both $800 billion.
The bottom line is we’re getting a trillion-dollar stimulus once interest is taken into account, and the past week’s battle has been about shaving off some cost, but not the underlying premise or the fundamental merit of political stimulus.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said, “We are passing a bold and responsible plan that will help our economy get back on its feet, put people to work and put more money in their pockets.”
This kind of statement embodies the essence of the policy crisis our country faces. It’s hardly “bold and responsible” to redistribute other people’s wealth: it’s the easiest thing in the world to do when you’re a career politician; it’s dismally less “bold” when that wealth hasn’t even been created yet and must be borrowed from our descendants who have no recourse against you now. So the package is actually reckless and irresponsible beyond Thunderdome. Like much government spending, whether routine or that squandered during past recessions, it’s politically motivated and unconnected to economic recovery.
And for Reid’s comment to “put more money in…pockets”; Apart from what he’s taking from our descendents, that’s where the money is now. To implement the anti-stimulus, he has to take it out of pockets of some to give it to others. Behold, leadership during a crisis. The many alternative “liberate to stimulate” ideas we and others have been proposing for months are ignored by the political class (only as they can get away with it!), because they don’t increase the power of politicians. Alas, politicians are now salivating at the prospect of the greatest one-time lurch in the size of the State they’ve ever known. This is a stimulus for politicians and the State, not the economy.