Friday, February 6, 2009

I'm shocked! Shocked! that we are spending so much to stimulate the economy

Alarm bells are ringing in Congress as Republicans and some Democrats balk at the price tag for getting the economy back on track. Funny, but I don't remember anyone getting panicky as the Bush administration's price tag for the war in Iraq approached and then exceeded the same amount. Republicans were all for it, and Democrats didn't have the courage to do what was needed to end it.

Meanwhile, Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein suggests that some of that money be spent on educating Congressmen and women about basic economics. Read his piece for a rundown on the nonsense that is passing for economic theory on the Hill these days.

Investment tip. Buy stock in companies that sell noise-cancelling headsets, now that WiFi has come to the crowded skies. I've got two pairs myself.

The Senate stimulus bill. It weighs in at 736 pages, ie more than a billion dollars per page, and worth every penny if it gets the economy moving again. Caution: large file.


terryt said...

"Funny, but I don't remember anyone getting panicky as the Bush administration's price tag for the war in Iraq approached and then exceeded the same amount".

It's obviously much easier to stir up individuals to go to war, especially if it's not actually them putting their life in danger, than it is to stir individuals up for anything else. Especially when there was such a campaign of blatant lying to make the US population afraid of the appropriate groups of people.

And my gripe is still that so few journalists have demanded of those who lied to explain exactly why they did so.

Richard Parker said...

'Stimulus Bill'
Line 1:
Purpose: In the nature of a substitute.

What the hell does this mean? I gave up reading at that point.

It is astonishing to me that every state (in the US and elsewhere) imposes a substantial tax on sales, so you and I pay for whatever we buy.

Yet no-one has taxed the trillions of dollars being traded amongst each other by the 'Masters of the Univers' all across the world.

The most effective thing that Obama could have done, apart from dreaming up this great big complicated pork bill, would have been very simple: impose a 1% tax on every single financial transaction.

It wouldn't make much of a dent on your bank account or overdraft, but it might have had some effect on those idiots who flayed all of our finances on computer screens.

jqb said...

What the hell does this mean?

This is an amendment, and its purpose is as a substitute for the previous version.

I gave up reading at that point.

Further reading would help clarify.

This bill is intended to stimulate the economy. "pork", i.e., spending, does that, as Obama explained: "That's the whole point!". Raising taxes on corporations, no matter how fine an idea in its own right, doesn't apply to that purpose.

jqb said...

Here is the "pork" (i.e., critical job creating/saving, economy priming stimulus) that is being cut as means of "compromise" (i.e., blackmail by those holding out the Senate votes needed to reach the necessary 3/5:

Billion dollar cuts

$40 billion State Fiscal Stabilization

$16 billion School Construction

$7.5 billion of State Incentive Grants

$5.8 billion Health Prevention Activity

$4.5 billion GSA

$3.5 billion Higher Ed Construction (Eliminated)

$3.5 billion Federal Bldgs Greening

$2.25 Neighborhood Stabilization (Eliminate)

$2 billion broadband

$2 billion HIT Grants

$1.25 billion project based rental

$1 billion Head Start/Early Start

$1.2 billion in Retrofiting Project 8 Housing

$1 billion Energy Loan Guarantees

Million dollar cuts

$100 million FSA modernization

$50 million CSERES Research

$65 million Watershed Rehab

$30 million SD Salaries

$100 Distance Learning

$98 million School Nutrition

$50 million aquaculture

$100 million NIST

$100 million NOAA

$100 million Law Enforcement Wireless

$50 million Detention Trustee

$25 million Marshalls Construction

$100 million FBI Construction

$300 million Federal Prisons

$300 million BYRNE Formula

$140 million BYRNE Competitive

$10 million State and Local Law Enforcement

$50 million NASA

$50 million Aeronautics

$50 million Exploration

$50 million Cross Agency Support

$200 million NSF

$100 million Science

$300 million Fed Hybrid Vehicles

$50 million from DHS

$200 million TSA

$122 million for Coast Guard Cutters, modifies use

$25 million Fish and Wildlife

$55 million Historic Preservation

$20 million working capital fund

$200 million Superfund

$165 million Forest Svc Capital Improvement

$90 million State & Private Wildlife Fire Management

$75 million Smithsonian

$600 million Title I (NCLB)

Michael Balter said...

Thanks for this, jqb. As far as I am concerned they can spend as much as they want to, as long as it is going to worthy projects. That will create jobs and change the future of the country in a good direction. Spend spend spend and spend some more!

As for the Republicans who are getting in the way, fuck them. I think Obama is finally seeing that bipartisanship is bullshit, especially when the other side is doing nothing besides sabotage. They know that tax cuts alone will do nothing and they have no other plan.

jqb said...

As for the Republicans who are getting in the way, fuck them.

The problem is that elections matter, and not just the Presidential election. Because Saxby Chambliss beat Jim Martin and Norm Coleman has Al Franken tied up in the Minnesota courts, there are only 58 Dem caucus members in the Senate but 60 are required to pass budget bills. As a result, fools like Susan Collins and DINO Ben Nelson are in a position to impose their ignorant ideas about economics. Read Paul Krugman on "What the centrists have wrought".

I think Obama is finally seeing that bipartisanship is bullshit

When Bush was President, the media adopted the Republican narrative that bipartisanship was Democrats voting for Republican policy and partisanship was Democrats not voting for Republican policy. Now, the narrative is that bipartisanship is Obama conceding to the Republicans and partisanship is Obama giving a speech to the Democratic caucus laying out what he sees as good policies and what he sees as bad ones. When the media uses the word "partisan", they apply it either to Democrats or to votes, never to Republicans. Thus, when every House Republican votes against the stimulus package, it's described as "voting along party lines" or "a partisan outcome", rather than talking about the brazen partisanship on the part of Republicans. The Republicans refuse to participate, then accuse Obama of pushing a partisan position because no Republicans are voting for it, and the media dutifully plays along.

Here is a good essay on bipartisanship and the sort that should and should not be abandoned.

jqb said...

P.S. In Krugman's previous entry, he writes

Thirty-six out of 41 Republican Senators voted for the proposed DeMint amendment to the stimulus bill — a massive package of permanent tax cuts that would create a huge hole in the budget, while doing very little to help the economy.

There isn’t much room for bipartisanship when 87.8% of the other party is totally irresponsible.

Here is Juan Cole's more colorful statement of the same:

I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.

In searching for that comment, I encountered a more recent Cole entry that offers another take on the insanity of Congressional Republicans:

The main purpose of the Republican party is to support the interests of big business (this is also one of the primary purposes of the Democratic party). I’ve always thought, though, that some day the Republican party would become so insane that it would begin to frighten big business. That day may have arrived.