Come On! Get a Piece of the Stimulus!

The lobbying frenzy to get each interest group’s agenda into the kitchen-sink stimulus bill continues to accelerate. Veterans groups want subsidies for veterans. The Creative Coalition, an association of people who have made millions by producing profitable art, argues that taxpayer-funded subsidies to unprofitable arts will produce another Orson Welles, Saul Bellow, or Burt Lancaster. One prominent actor, Patrick Swayze, is understandably more concerned that the bill include “maximum funding” for cancer research. Energy billionaire T. Boone Pickens wants energy subsidies in the bill. “The Water & Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association is urging congressional leaders to dedicate funding for water and wastewater projects.” Religious liberals are pushing for hikes in welfare spending. Florida congressmen want more spending on space programs. I cited more examples a week ago:

“A Republican [in Ohio] called it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” “Cities, towns ready to vie for stimulus funds.” “Road Builders Compete for Slice of Stimulus.” “West Michigan’s stimulus wish list.” “A State with a Wish List for Stimulus Spending.” “Steel industry lobbyists seem to have persuaded the House to insert a “Buy American” provision in the stimulus bill it passed last week.” “JetBlue Goes to Washington to Discuss Economic Stimulus Plan.”

As with the TARP bailout, the lobbying will only heat up if and when the bill is passed. At that point, instead of trying to get your favorite line item into the bill, the challenge will become finding a member of Congress to pressure the bureaucracy to agree that your project meets the criteria for funding laid out in the bill. Considering that the headline summary of the bill runs 13 pages, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a provision to cover just about anything. And then, instead of productive activity, yet more money and talent will be directed to seeking subsidies from government. That’s no way to stimulate actual economic growth, though it will certainly stimulate the economy of Washington, D.C., and its prosperous suburbs.