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By Gary Starr for The Neville Awards
January 28, 2009
On Januray 27, 2009 Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the so-called
and long awaited $900 billion stimulus package, known here at Neville as "Obama's Porkapalooza".
The media described the vote as down party lines. What they didn't emphasize is that, in addition to every
Republican voting no, eleven "Blue Dog" Dems, mostly Southerners, had the good sense not to vote for it either.
Bi-partisanship prevailed...but not in the direction Obama had hoped for.
The Senate version of the bill comes up for a vote in the next few days. We will be watching and taking notes on the wobbly Gang of Fourteen RINOs
that jump ship and enter The No Spine Zone. In particular keep your eyes on Sens. John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Arlen Spector and Judd Gregg
who feel they just have to support the Fraudintor-in-Chief in the interests of bi-partisanship.
The list of projects in this mess reads like the ultimate social engineering utopian liberal wet dream. Per Dick Morris on Jan. 27, 2009:
In the name of economic stimulus, it not only has every item any liberal ever asked of Santa Claus on Christmas eve, it also contains the seeds of a permanent shift toward a European-style socialist democracy. Its dramatic exemption of more than half of Americans from paying federal income taxes (it is now about one-third who don't pay them) and its generosity in awarding this voting majority a welfare check -- called a refundable tax credit -- moves the politics of taxation sharply to the left. The federal government's acquisition of preferred stock in virtually all our major banks sets the stage for full nationalization. After all, if the feds are using their "preferred" status to hog all the dividends, why should any private person buy bank stock?
Here are just a few of the porky items that were in the bill:
Much of this nonsense is for "green research" which will supposedly create "green jobs". Now we find out that the attempts to make
are a waste of money and a complete failure. Business is leaving the state in droves. Why would we do this at the federal level? Why...
because, for the Left, green is dogma, green is a religion and global warming sceptics are heretics.
- $400M for Global Warming projects and green job creation
- $50M for the National Endowment for the Arts
- $1B for Amtrak
- $2.4B for Carbon Capture (whatever that is)
- $650M for digital conversion of television signals
- $30B for road and bridge (infrastructure) construction
- $40B for broadband
- $8B for renewable energy research
- $600M for hybrid vehicles for the Feds
- $7B for Federal Building maintenance
- $150M for the Smithsonian
- $400M for Natural Habitat Restoration
- $400M for overseas family planning (abortion)
How this stimulates the economy and helps private business is a mystery to us...it sounds more like a latter day WPA. And we know how the New Deal worked out.
Do you have that tingly feeling crawling up your leg yet?
By Dick Morris
January 20, 2009
Published on TheHill.com
2009-2010 will rank with 1913-14, 1933-36, 1964-65 and 1981-82 as years that will permanently change our government, politics and lives. Just as the stars were aligned for Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson and Reagan, they are aligned for Obama. Simply put, we enter his administration as free-enterprise, market-dominated, laissez-faire America. We will shortly become like Germany, France, the United Kingdom, or Sweden -- a socialist democracy in which the government dominates the economy, determines private-sector priorities and offers a vastly expanded range of services to many more people at much higher taxes.
Obama will accomplish his agenda of "reform" under the rubric of "recovery." Using the electoral mandate bestowed on a Democratic Congress by restless voters and the economic power given his administration by terrified Americans, he will change our country fundamentally in the name of lifting the depression. His stimulus packages won't do much to shorten the downturn -- although they will make it less painful -- but they will do a great deal to change our nation.
In implementing his agenda, Barack Obama will emulate the example of Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Not the liberal mythology of the New Deal, but the actuality of what it accomplished.) When FDR took office, he was enormously successful in averting a total collapse of the banking system and the economy. But his New Deal measures only succeeded in lowering the unemployment rate from 23 percent in 1933, when he took office, to 13 percent in the summer of 1937. It never went lower. And his policies of over-regulation generated such business uncertainty that they triggered a second-term recession. Unemployment in 1938 rose to 17 percent and, in 1940, on the verge of the war-driven recovery, stood at 15 percent. (These data and the real story of Hoover's and Roosevelt's missteps, uncolored by ideology, are available in The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes, copyright 2007.)
But in the name of a largely unsuccessful effort to end the Depression, Roosevelt passed crucial and permanent reforms that have dominated our lives ever since, including Social Security, the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, unionization under the Wagner Act, the federal minimum wage and a host of other fundamental changes.
Obama's record will be similar, although less wise and more destructive. He will begin by passing every program for which liberals have lusted for decades, from alternative-energy sources to school renovations, infrastructure repairs and technology enhancements. These are all good programs, but they normally would be stretched out for years. But freed of any constraint on the deficit -- indeed, empowered by a mandate to raise it as high as possible -- Obama will do them all rather quickly.
But it is not his spending that will transform our political system, it is his tax and welfare policies. In the name of short-term stimulus, he will give every American family (who makes less than $200,000) a welfare check of $1,000 euphemistically called a refundable tax credit. And he will so sharply cut taxes on the middle class and the poor that the number of Americans who pay no federal income tax will rise from the current one-third of all households to more than half. In the process, he will create a permanent electoral majority that does not pay taxes, but counts on ever-expanding welfare checks from the government. The dependency on the dole, formerly limited in pre-Clinton days to 14 million women and children on Aid to Families with Dependent Children, will now grow to a clear majority of the American population.
Will he raise taxes? Why should he? With a congressional mandate to run the deficit up as high as need be, there is no reason to raise taxes now and risk aggravating the depression. Instead, Obama will follow the opposite of the Reagan strategy. Reagan cut taxes and increased the deficit so that liberals could not increase spending. Obama will raise spending and increase the deficit so that conservatives cannot cut taxes. And, when the economy is restored, he will raise taxes with impunity, since the only people who will have to pay them would be rich Republicans.
In the name of stabilizing the banking system, Obama will nationalize it. Using Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to write generous checks to needy financial institutions, his administration will demand preferred stock in exchange. Preferred stock gets dividends before common stockholders do. With the massive debt these companies will owe to the government, they will only be able to afford dividends for preferred stockholders -- the government, not private investors. So who will buy common stock? And the government will demand that its bills be paid before any profits that might materialize are reinvested in the financial institution, so how will the value of the stocks ever grow? Devoid of private investors, these institutions will fall ever more under government control.
Obama will begin the process by limiting executive compensation. Then he will urge restructuring and lowering of home mortgages in danger of default (as the feds have already done with Citibank).
Then will come guidance on the loans to make and government instructions on the types of enterprises to favor. God grant that some Blagojevich type is not in charge of the program, using his power to line his pockets. The United States will find itself with an economic system comparable to that of Japan, where the all-powerful bureaucracy at MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) manages the economy, often making mistakes like giving mainframe computers priority over the development of laptops.
But it is the healthcare system that will experience the most dramatic and traumatic of changes. The current debate between erecting a Medicare-like governmental single payer or channeling coverage through private insurance misses the essential point. Without a lot more doctors, nurses, clinics, equipment and hospital beds, health resources will be strained to the breaking point. The people and equipment that now serve 250 million Americans and largely neglect all but the emergency needs of the other 50 million will now have to serve everyone. And, as government imposes ever more Draconian price controls and income limits on doctors, the supply of practitioners and equipment will decline as the demand escalates. Price increases will be out of the question, so the government will impose healthcare rationing, denying the older and sicker among us the care they need and even barring them from paying for it themselves. (Rationing based on income and price will be seen as immoral.)
And Obama will move to change permanently the partisan balance in America. He will move quickly to legalize all those who have been in America for five years, albeit illegally, and to smooth their paths to citizenship and voting. He will weaken border controls in an attempt to hike the Latino vote as high as he can in order to make red states like Texas into blue states like California. By the time he is finished, Latinos and African-Americans will cast a combined 30 percent of the vote. If they go by top-heavy margins for the Democrats, as they did in 2008, it will assure Democratic domination (until they move up the economic ladder and become good Republicans).
And he will enact the check-off card system for determining labor union representation, repealing the secret ballot in union elections. The result will be to raise the proportion of the labor force in unions up to the high teens from the current level of about 12 percent.
Finally, he will use the expansive powers of the Federal Communications Commission to impose "local" control and ownership of radio stations and to impose the "fairness doctrine" on talk radio. The effect will be to drive talk radio to the Internet, fundamentally change its economics, and retard its growth for years hence.
But none of these changes will cure the depression. It will end when the private sector works through the high debt levels that triggered the collapse in the first place. And, then, the large stimulus package deficits will likely lead to rapid inflation, probably necessitating a second recession to cure it.
So Obama's name will be mud by 2012 and probably by 2010 as well. And the Republican Party will make big gains and regain much of its lost power.
But it will be too late to reverse the socialism of much of the economy, the demographic change in the electorate, the rationing of healthcare by the government, the surge of unionization and the crippling of talk radio.
By The Wall Street Journal
JANUARY 28, 2009
"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."
So said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in November, and Democrats in Congress are certainly taking his advice to heart. The 647-page, $825 billion House legislation is being sold as an economic "stimulus," but now that Democrats have finally released the details we understand Rahm's point much better. This is a political wonder that manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years.
We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.
In selling the plan, President Obama has said this bill will make "dramatic investments to revive our flagging economy." Well, you be the judge. Some $30 billion, or less than 5% of the spending in the bill, is for fixing bridges or other highway projects. There's another $40 billion for broadband and electric grid development, airports and clean water projects that are arguably worthwhile priorities.
Add the roughly $20 billion for business tax cuts, and by our estimate only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus. And even many of these projects aren't likely to help the economy immediately. As Peter Orszag, the President's new budget director, told Congress a year ago, "even those [public works] that are 'on the shelf' generally cannot be undertaken quickly enough to provide timely stimulus to the economy."
Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion) that have a low or negative return on investment. Most urban transit systems are so badly managed that their fares cover less than half of their costs. However, the people who operate these systems belong to public-employee unions that are campaign contributors to . . . guess which party?
Here's another lu-lu: Congress wants to spend $600 million more for the federal government to buy new cars. Uncle Sam already spends $3 billion a year on its fleet of 600,000 vehicles. Congress also wants to spend $7 billion for modernizing federal buildings and facilities. The Smithsonian is targeted to receive $150 million; we love the Smithsonian, too, but this is a job creator?
Another "stimulus" secret is that some $252 billion is for income-transfer payments -- that is, not investments that arguably help everyone, but cash or benefits to individuals for doing nothing at all. There's $81 billion for Medicaid, $36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits, $20 billion for food stamps, and $83 billion for the earned income credit for people who don't pay income tax. While some of that may be justified to help poorer Americans ride out the recession, they aren't job creators.
As for the promise of accountability, some $54 billion will go to federal programs that the Office of Management and Budget or the Government Accountability Office have already criticized as "ineffective" or unable to pass basic financial audits. These include the Economic Development Administration, the Small Business Administration, the 10 federal job training programs, and many more.
Oh, and don't forget education, which would get $66 billion more. That's more than the entire Education Department spent a mere 10 years ago and is on top of the doubling under President Bush. Some $6 billion of this will subsidize university building projects. If you think the intention here is to help kids learn, the House declares on page 257 that "No recipient . . . shall use such funds to provide financial assistance to students to attend private elementary or secondary schools." Horrors: Some money might go to nonunion teachers.
The larger fiscal issue here is whether this spending bonanza will become part of the annual "budget baseline" that Congress uses as the new floor when calculating how much to increase spending the following year, and into the future. Democrats insist that it will not. But it's hard -- no, impossible -- to believe that Congress will cut spending next year on any of these programs from their new, higher levels. The likelihood is that this allegedly emergency spending will become a permanent addition to federal outlays -- increasing pressure for tax increases in the bargain. Any Blue Dog Democrat who votes for this ought to turn in his "deficit hawk" credentials.
This is supposed to be a new era of bipartisanship, but this bill was written based on the wish list of every living -- or dead -- Democratic interest group. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, "We won the election. We wrote the bill." So they did. Republicans should let them take all of the credit.
By Stephen Moore
JANUARY 31, 2009
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was all smiles in 2006 when he signed into law the toughest anti-global-warming regulations of any state. Mr. Schwarzenegger and his green supporters boasted that the regulations would steer California into a prosperous era of green jobs, renewable energy, and technological leadership. Instead, since 2007 -- in anticipation of the new mandates -- California has led the nation in job losses.
The regulations created a cap-and-trade system, similar to proposed federal global-warming measures, by limiting the CO2 that utilities, trucking companies and other businesses can emit, and imposed steep new taxes on companies that exceed the caps. Since energy is an input in everything that's produced, this will raise the cost of production inside California's borders.
Now, as the Golden State prepares to implement this regulatory scheme, employers are howling. It's become clear to nearly everyone that the plan's backers have underestimated its negative impact and exaggerated the benefits. "We've been sold a false bill of goods," is how Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello, who has been the GOP's point man on environmental issues in the legislature, put it to me.
The environmental plan was built on the notion that imposing some $23 billion of new taxes and fees on households (through higher electricity bills) and employers will cost the economy nothing, while also reducing greenhouse gases. Almost no one believes that anymore except for the five members of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). This is the state's air-quality regulator, which voted unanimously in December to stick with the cap-and-trade system despite the recession. CARB justified its go-ahead by issuing what almost all experts agree is a rigged study on the economic impact of the cap-and-trade system. The study concludes that the plan "will not only significantly reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions, but will also have a net positive effect on California's economic growth through 2020."
This finding elicited a chorus of hallelujahs from environmental groups. The state finally discovered a do-good policy that pays for itself. Californians can still scurry around in their cars, heat up their Jacuzzis, and help save the planet. But there was a problem. The CARB had commissioned five economists from around the country to critique this study. They panned it.
Harvard's Robert Stavins, chairman of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's economic advisory committee under Bill Clinton, told me that "None of us knew who the other reviewers were, but we all came up with almost the same conclusion. The report was severely flawed and systematically underestimated costs." Another reviewer, UCLA Prof. Matthew E. Kahn, a supporter of the new regulations, criticized the "free lunch" aspect of the report. "The net dollar costs of each of these regulations is likely to be much larger than is reported," he concluded. Mr. Stavins points out that if these regulations are a net boon for businesses and the economy, "why would you need to impose regulations like cap and trade?"
The Sacramento Bee, which has editorialized in support of the new regulations, was aghast at CARB's twisted science. We have to "be candid about the real costs of the transition," a cautionary editorial advised. "Energy prices will rise, and major capital investment will be needed in public transit and new transmission lines. Industries that are energy intensive will move elsewhere."
The green lobby has lectured us for years that global warming is all about the sanctity of science. Those who question the "scientific consensus" on catastrophic atmospheric changes are belittled as "deniers." Now, in assessing the costs, the greens readily cook the books and throw good science out the window. "To most of the most strident supporters of this legislation," says Mr. Niello, "the economic costs don't really matter anyway, because we are supposedly facing an environmental apocalypse."
Mr. Schwarzenegger fits into that camp. He recently declared: "I recommend very strongly that we move forward . . . . You will always have people saying this will lose jobs."
Meanwhile, the state is losing jobs, a lot of them. California's unemployment rate hit 9.3% in December, up from 4.9% in December 2006. There are now 1.5 million Californians out of work. The state has the fourth-highest housing foreclosure rate in the nation, has lost more businesses than any state in recent years, and is facing a $40 billion deficit. With cap and trade firmly in place, the economic situation is only likely to get worse.
Other states are plundering the Golden State's industries by convincing businesses to pick up stakes and move out before the cap-and-trade earthquake hits. Governors and Washington politicians who want to reduce their "carbon footprint," but are worried about the more immediate crises of cascading unemployment, unbalanced budgets, and the housing-market collapse, would be wise not to follow California's lead. Green policies have a tendency to push states into the red.
Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal editorial page.