This new video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity explains how last year's so-called stimulus was a flop - and also reveals why politicians are pushing for another big-government spending bill.
Interestingly, since last year's stimulus was such a disaster, the redistributionists in Washington are calling their new proposal a "jobs bill." But as I say in the video, this is akin to putting perfume on a hog.
For further background, here is a video explaining why Keynesian economics is wrong and another predicting (in advance!) that last year's stimulus would be a mistake. And just in case anyone actually wants the economy to grow faster, here's one about policies that actually increase prosperity.
While American politicians are experts when it comes to squandering money, they may not be the world's most profligate group of lawmakers. To be sure, American politicians sometimes give big piles of other people's money to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but the politicians at the European Commission in Brussels engage in similar forms of corporate welfare with their Emissions Trading Scheme.
The overall burden of government is heavier in Europe, so that certainly suggests that there are greater opportunities to waste money, but what makes the European Commission special is that it is insulated from democratic accountability and there is no system of checks and balances. So even though the actual amount of money spent by Brussels is small compared to what is wasted by national governments in Europe, the outcomes are especially obscene. Here's a story from the UK-based Daily Mail, reporting on a program (no joke) to fund activities such as basket weaving and siestas:
British taxpayers are helping to fund basket-weaving and slapstick acting workshops for young people across Europe. The projects, which include meetings about folk dancing and even a scheme to promote afternoon siestas, are part of an £800million EU programme to help people aged 13-30 'feel European'. ...Another venture in Finland received thousands to support a coffee house which offered 'everyone the chance to have a sleep for free'. It aimed to encourage afternoon naps to reduce stress. 'Youth exchange participants' also flocked to Macedonia last year for a meeting entitled Stories And Legends, receiving £18,000 to explore storytelling. ...An EC spokesman said the projects were about exposing young people to other cultures and increasing their participation in society. He added: 'I don't see anything wrong with basket-weaving or music-making if it encourages young people to meet other Europeans and learn a new skill from another part of Europe.'
Readers may be thinking this is no big deal. After all, American politicians fund pork projects all the time. But here's the clincher. The UK's Daily Telegraph reports that the European Commission is subsidizing a ski trip for...drum roll, please... the children of European politicians, and that the subsidies even go to households with income equivalent to about $175,000:
Taxpayers will heavily subsidise a skiing holiday in the Italian Alps for the children of MEPs and European Parliament officials in February. ...The eight-day skiing trip for 80 children aged between eight and 17 is timed to begin over the weekend of St Valentine's Day, providing some romantic time off from parenting for officials. Costs, the holiday is priced at 920 euros (£822), are generously subsidised by the parliament's budget. Households receive different levels of subsidy depending on their monthly income but even those on a income of over £108,000 get a discount. There is reduction of up to 52 per cent for officials earning £69,620 a year and an MEP, earning £86,000, is eligible for a subsidy of 45 per cent. ...The children will enjoy full board in a three-star hotel in the beautiful village of Spiazzi. The trip includes "workshops" in a "multilingual environment" on the themes of "the mountain, its snow, its nature". ...The parliament's spokesman declined to comment on the holiday.
Perhaps I'm not paying close enough attention, but I can't think of anything the crowd in Washington has done that rivals this odious example of self-serving by lawmakers. Can anybody come up with an example that tops this?
I caught a lot of flack from my Republican friends for my post blaming the FY2009 deficit on Bush instead of Obama. Well, I must be a glutton for punishment because I can't resist jumping (albeit reluctantly) to Obama's defense again. I'm venting my spleen for two reason. First, FoxNews.com posted a story headlined "Obama Shatters Spending Record for First-Year Presidents" and noted that:
President Obama has shattered the budget record for first-year presidents -- spending nearly double what his predecessor did when he came into office and far exceeding the first-year tabs for any other U.S. president in history. In fiscal 2009 the federal government spent $3.52 trillion ...That fiscal year covered the last three-and-a-half months of George W. Bush's term and the first eight-and-a-half months of Obama's.
This story was featured on the Drudge Report, so it has received a lot of attention. Second, Bush's former Senior Adviser wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal eviscerating Obama for big budget deficits. Given Bush's track record, this took considerable chutzpah, but what really nauseated me was this passage:
When Mr. Obama was sworn into office the federal deficit for this year stood at $422 billion. At the end of October, it stood at $1.42 trillion.
I'm a big fan of criticizing Obama's profligacy, but it is inaccurate and/or dishonest to blame him for Bush's mistakes. At the risk of repeating my earlier post, the 2009 fiscal year began on October 1, 2008, and the vast majority of the spending for that year was the result of Bush Administration policies. Yes, Obama did add to the waste with the so-called stimulus, the omnibus appropriation, the CHIP bill, and the cash-for-clunkers nonsense, but as the chart illustrates, these boondoggles only amounted to just a tiny percentage of the FY2009 total -- about $140 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget.
There are some subjective aspects to this estimate, to be sure. Supplemental defense spending could boost Obama's share by another $25 billion, but Bush surely would have asked for at least that much extra spending, so I didn't count that money but individual readers can adjust the number if they wish. Also, Obama used some bailout money for the car companies, but I did not count that as a net increase in spending since the bailout funds were approved under Bush and I strongly suspect the previous Administration also would have funneled money to GM and Chrysler. In any event, I did not give Obama credit for the substantial amount of TARP funds that were repaid after January 20, so the net effect of all the judgment calls certainly is not to Bush's disadvantage.
Let's use an analogy. Obama's FY2009 performance is like a relief pitcher who enters a game in the fourth inning trailing 19-0 and allows another run to score. The extra run is nothing to cheer about, of course, but fans should be far more angry with the starting pitcher. That having been said, Obama since that point has been serving up meatballs to the special interests in Washington, so his earned run average may actually wind up being worse than his predecessor's. He promised change, but it appears that Obama wants to be Bush on steroids.
Writing for The Hill, I explain why Keynesian-style stimulus does not work. In addition, I note that the so-called stimulus was just an excuse for pork-barrel spending. But my concluding point, excerpted below, is that the White House goofed politically by making specific claims about the good things that ostensibly would happen by increasing the burden of government spending:
The only surprise was that the White House was foolish enough to make specific claims of the good results that supposedly would flow from all the pork-barrel spending. In part, this is the absurd notion of claiming 600,000-plus “jobs saved or created” when total employment actually has fallen by more than 3 million. But the bigger mistake was claiming that the faux stimulus would keep the unemployment rate from rising above 8 percent and that failure to squander $787 billion would cause the jobless rate to climb to 9 percent. The politicians got their wish, yet now the unemployment rate is above 10 percent. Brilliant.
Republicans are all over the ACORN scandal and calling for an end to federal subsidies for the group. Well that's great, but it's not exactly going out on a limb and pushing for a major budget reform.
Why doesn't the GOP use this as an opportunity to call for completely ending the programs that funded ACORN? Wouldn't it be better to save the $13 billion a year that HUD spends on so-called "community development" programs, rather than just the few million dollars a year that taxpayers spend on ACORN?
The federal programs that funded ACORN are particularly wasteful ones, including Community Development Block Grants, Housing Counseling Assistance, and others as Tad DeHaven has explained.
At a minimum, the GOP should be arguing that with deficits of $1 trillion the federal government cannot afford to intervene in classic local and private activities such as community development. Boehner and Canter want the IRS to cut ties with ACORN, but they should be leading the charge to end porky "community development" spending altogether.
Last night I received a press release from the National Republican Senatorial Committee entitled "Lincoln Votes to Protect Millions in Taxpayer Funds for Little-Used Pennsylvania Airport." Lincoln would be Arkansas Democrat Senator Blanche Lincoln. According to the NRSC press release:
In a remarkable vote on the Senate floor this afternoon, U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) made clear that despite rising federal deficits and a record national debt, she still stands firmly on the side of more wasteful Washington spending. Lincoln today helped defeat an amendment, offered by U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), to the annual transportation appropriations bill that would end taxpayer subsidies for the John Murtha Airport, a little used 650-acre facility in Johnstown, Pennsylvania that has received at least $200 million in taxpayer funding. U.S. Congressman John Murtha (D-PA), who the airport was named after and who has been the subject of a number of ethics-related stories in recent months, has personally directed $150 million in federal funds to the facility even though it only has 3 flights daily to one destination: Washington, D.C.
When I went to the NRSC's website I noticed similar press releases for other Democrat senators who I'm assuming are on the outfit's election hit-list. Having never received an NRSC press release before, I'm assuming I received this one because I ripped Senator Lincoln in a blog post last week. If that's the case, I'm impressed with the NRSC's resourcefulness. Regardless, it made me curious to find out if any Republican senators voted with Lincoln and the other Democrats.
In fact, yes, two Republicans did vote to keep the federal money flowing to Murtha's airport: George Voinovich of Ohio and Christopher "Kit" Bond of Missouri. Both are members of the third party in Congress: Appropriators. Given that he is the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, it's not a surprise that Bond voted against an amendment unfriendly to a larded-up transportation appropriations bill. Both are retiring at the end of their terms in 2010, so the NRSC apparently wasn't too worried about charges of hypocrisy.
With the exception of the aforementioned, all Republican senators voted for the amendment, including appropriators like Murkowski, Collins, Cochran, and Bennett. None of those folks are exactly known as fiscal tightwads. So what gives? Will these senators be headlining tea parties in the near future?
The truth is it's just politics. The Republicans are in the minority and got kicked out of the majority by voters due in part to years of fiscal profligacy. I'm sure more than a few believed this was the type of vote that will help them curry favor with the growing swarms of voters upset with Washington's out-of-control spending. It probably helps a smidgen (sarcasm intended) that the airport in question is located in Pennsylvania, home to two Democrat senators, one of which is recent Republican defector Arlen Specter. Oh, and it's Democrat John Murtha's airport.
I'm wondering where these Republican votes to eliminate pork were when I was working with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) several years ago to kill funding for the Bridge to Nowhere and other assorted congressional slop. At the time, Republicans were in the Senate majority. For example, on the Bridge to Nowhere vote, our amendment went down 15-82. Only 11 Republicans supported the amendment.
Don't get me wrong. I'm pleased to see almost all Republicans (and five Democrats) vote to stop funding Murtha's airport. But their votes were driven by political considerations and not a new-found zeal for reigning in federal spending. And let's face it, defunding the Murtha airport is merely symbolic given that it would save peanuts. So let's see what happens on a vote to strip funding for the entire transportation program that subsidizes the other small airports in this country, many of which probably wouldn't exist were it not for the federal cheese. Of course, someone would have to actually introduce such an amendment first. Senator Coburn or DeMint?
Some naive people might have been convinced that the U.S. House voted to wreck the American economy by endorsing cap and trade because it was the only way to save the world. But even many environmentalists had given up on the bill approved last Friday. It is truly a monstrosity: it would cost consumers plenty, while doing little to reduce global temperatures.
But the legislation had something far more important for legislators and special interests alike. It was a pork-fest that wouldn't quit.
Reports the New York Times:
As the most ambitious energy and climate-change legislation ever introduced in Congress made its way to a floor vote last Friday, it grew fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts intended to win the votes of wavering lawmakers and the support of powerful industries.
The deal making continued right up until the final minutes, with the bill’s co-author Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, doling out billions of dollars in promises on the House floor to secure the final votes needed for passage.
The bill was freighted with hundreds of pages of special-interest favors, even as environmentalists lamented that its greenhouse-gas reduction targets had been whittled down.
Some of the prizes were relatively small, like the $50 million hurricane research center for a freshman lawmaker from Florida.
Others were huge and threatened to undermine the environmental goals of the bill, like a series of compromises reached with rural and farm-state members that would funnel billions of dollars in payments to agriculture and forestry interests.
Automakers, steel companies, natural gas drillers, refiners, universities and real estate agents all got in on the fast-moving action.
The biggest concessions went to utilities, which wanted assurances that they could continue to operate and build coal -- burning power plants without shouldering new costs. The utilities received not only tens of billions of dollars worth of free pollution permits, but also billions for work on technology to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from coal combustion to help meet future pollution targets.
That deal, negotiated by Representative Rick Boucher, a conservative Democrat from Virginia’s coal country, won the support of the Edison Electric Institute, the utility industry lobby, and lawmakers from regions dependent on coal for electricity.
Liberal Democrats got a piece, too. Representative Bobby Rush, Democrat of Illinois, withheld his support for the bill until a last-minute accord was struck to provide nearly $1 billion for energy-related jobs and job training for low-income workers and new subsidies for making public housing more energy-efficient.
Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican staunchly opposed to the bill, marveled at the deal-cutting on Friday.
“It is unprecedented,” Mr. Barton said, “but at least it’s transparent.”
This shouldn't surprise anyone who follows Washington. Still, the degree of special interest dealing was extraordinary. Anyone want to imagine what a health care "reform" bill is likely to look like when legislators finish with it?