Passage Of The “Stimulus” Bill Will Be A True “Lipstick On A Pig” Moment
As public support for the Democratic version of the “stimulus” package continues to tank, Democratic leaders in the Senate are desperately seeking Republican support.
Before I go on here, two things should be made clear. A) There are two premises at work here – one says we don’t need this “stimulus” package, but should instead take the ‘pain’ now, get it over with and begin the recovery. The other says that government must act to ameliorate the pain and to help jump-start the economy. B) Senate Republicans have bought into the second premise.
My point? Like it or not (and I don’t) there’s going to be a stimulus package – just not the one now on the table.
So to the particulars. There aren’t enough votes in the Senate to pass the present version so there are a number of alternatives being offered. One is by John McCain which cuts the package by about one-half to $445 billion. But that’s unlikely to happen. Waffle-boy, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Some of the Time), says:
Graham said he could back something between the McCain bill and the House bill. Although some Republicans would prefer to shelve the measure temporarily, hoping that spending demand will cool, other GOP lawmakers would prefer to stay on schedule and find common ground. “There’s sort of political chaos right now,” he conceded.
Got that? This is something which must remain “on schedule” (Feb 13) vs. being well thought out and well targeted. Does it surprise you at all that their priority is an arbitrary date vs. good legislation?
And here’s what should really make you nervous:
The most ambitious effort to cut the bill is being led by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), moderates in their parties who share a dislike of the current version. Collins is scheduled to visit Obama at the White House this afternoon. “I’m going to go to him with a list” of suggested deletions, she said.
Nelson said he and Collins have agreed to “tens of billions” in cuts, although he said he is skeptical that the effort will reach Collins’s target of $200 billion in reductions. The pair has counted up to 20 allies in their effort, with more Democrats than Republicans at this point.
Among the items that the Collins-Nelson initiative is targeting: $1.1 billion for comparative medical research, $350 million for Agriculture Department computers, $75 million to discourage smoking, $20 million in Interior Department funding, $400 million for HIV screening and $650 million for wildlife management.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the centrist group led by Nelson and Collins would target programs that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated would not spend their funding quickly. He said the list includes a number of proposals that will spend only about 10 percent of their funding in the next 18 months. “These become immediate candidates for review,” Conrad said of the provisions.
Whenever Republicans have Sen. Susan Collins in the lead concerning
spending, you can mostly be assured that they won’t get the best deal.
One slightly bright spot in all of this was the portion of the legislation giving Hollywood a specific and very nice tax break was stripped from the bill:
Then, on a 52 to 45 vote, the chamber stripped $246 million in tax breaks for Hollywood production companies, a measure offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the Senate’s self-appointed watchdog on federal spending. Coburn, who almost always loses his quixotic efforts to cut funding, appeared jubilant — if somewhat surprised — by his unexpected victory.
“This is a gift,” he said of the Hollywood provision. “It’s not going to stimulate the economy at all.”
One of the reasons that happened, I’m sure, is the visibility it got when it was discovered. So between now and Feb 13th (yes it’s a Friday the 13th and completely apropos for what is being legislated by Congress) more of these examples of pork and special interest legislation need to be given light.
Success for other stimulus amendments was mixed:
Later, the Senate turned away legislation to reduce the tax rate on multinational corporations that are returning earnings from overseas, as opponents argued that it was a giveaway to industry. But some new spending programs proved too politically attractive to the Senate. In a 71 to 26 vote, the Senate approved a new incentive for car buyers, at an estimated cost of $11 billion over 10 years. According to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), the amendment’s sponsor, buyers could deduct the cost of sales tax for new cars purchased between last Nov. 12 and Dec. 31, 2009. Individuals with incomes of up to $125,000 would qualify.
Of course the multinational corporation tax cut on earnings would have stimulated investment here, and that leads to what? Yup, jobs. Notice the language – letting a company keep more of what it has earned is a “giveaway”. Amazing.
Bottom line: this is going to pass in some form or fashion within the next week or so. The only thing left to do, to borrow a phrase, is to decide what shade of lipstick they’re going to put on this pig.
Hope and change.