It’s been interesting to watch the left attempt to paint the right as obsessive about tax-cuts, to the exclusion of any other method of stimulating the economy. Josh Marshall called it “tax cut monomania”. Of course careful readers who’ve followed this debate know that’s absolute nonsense. The Republicans have bought into the premise that some level of government spending is necessary, except that it should be tightly targeted and provide immediate stiumlus.
Instead they’re faced with this bloated piece of garbage legislation derisively called the “2009 Spend Your Grand Children and Great Grand Children into Debt bill”.
I noted Marshall’s appeal to authority (the sacred macroeconomic texts) yesterday and his claim that macroeconomists couldn’t exactly run controlled experiments to prove their point. But upon reflection, I thought, that’s not precisely true. While it may not fit the classic definition of a “controlled experiment”, Japan’s 2 decade long struggle to revive its economy is about as close as we’re going to get.
And you know what – the lessons learned from that say we’re about to commit the same mistakes they did. President Obama claimed, last night, that spending on infrastructure was the way to go – that it would create jobs and stimulate the economy. But Japan spent $6.3 trillion on construction-related public investment between 1991 and September of last year, and it did nothing of the sort. Nope, paving over Japan accomplished little in terms of stimulating a down economy.
In the end, say economists, it was not public works but an expensive cleanup of the debt-ridden banking system, combined with growing exports to China and the United States, that brought a close to Japan’s Lost Decade. This has led many to conclude that spending did little more than sink Japan deeply into debt, leaving an enormous tax burden for future generations.
In the United States, it has also led to calls in Congress, particularly by Republicans, not to repeat the errors of Japan’s failed economic stimulus. They argue that it makes more sense to cut taxes, and let people decide how to spend their own money, than for the government to decide how to invest public funds. Japan put more emphasis on increased spending than tax cuts during its slump, but ultimately did reduce consumption taxes to encourage consumer spending as well.
Trade and tax cuts along with spending targeted at banking system was how Japan finally pulled out of its doldrums. We already have 700 billion aimed at our banking system, with only half of it spent. That leaves what, if you’re interested in not repeating the mistakes of an economy which has already gone thorugh this sort of thing?
Well it’s certainly not a huge NRA style spending spreed on public works. Japan spent trillions on public works and infrastructure and it didn’t do what all the economists said it would do. Instead Targeted spending on the banking system, tax cuts and the development of trade turned the tide.
Given the present bill it appears we’re going to “Buy American”, refuse tax cuts and spend hundreds of billions on roads and bridges. The Republicans objections to this mammoth pork and relief fest have nothing to do with “tax cut monomania”. It has much more to do with understanding the lessons learned from the Japanese experience and not wanting to repeat them. Democrats, in their arrogance, seem to believe that they can do the same thing as Japan but have a different outcome.
Well, after Democratic assurances that the Fairness Doctrine wasn’t something they planned to pursue, Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow muddied those waters again. Appearing on the Bill Press Show she had this to say:
BILL PRESS: Yeah, I mean, look: They have a right to say that. They’ve got a right to express that. But, they should not be the only voices heard. So, is it time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine?
SENATOR DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else — I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.
BILL PRESS: Can we count on you to push for some hearings in the United States Senate this year, to bring these owners in and hold them accountable?
SENATOR DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): I have already had some discussions with colleagues and, you know, I feel like that’s gonna happen. Yep.
Really. “Accountability”? What sort of “accountability” is Sen. Stabenow talking about?
What she means is she’d like to see the bane of the Democrats, the one venue that regularly frustrates their efforts, out of business or seriously handicaped.
The arguments for the previous Fairness Doctrine were pitifully inadequate and certainly an infringement of free speech, but radio was a dominant medium at the time and that’s how supporters justified their attempted control of what could or couldn’t be said.
Now, however, even those marginal arguments are obsolete. The choices of media have expanded exponentially. The internet has changed the whole game. To pretend that “standards” and “accountability” must be imposed on a very small part of this media spectrum while ignoring the rest is laughable.
So this comes down to power and control. And it requires a willingness to ignore the tenets of liberty and heritage of free speech embodied in the Constitution. I have no doubt that Democrats are more than willing to do exactly that in their effort to consolidate their power.
Stephen Spruiell and Kevin Williamson over at NRO have put an excellent “stimulus package” summary together.
I’m going to give you an condensed summary from their work. Make sure you read the whole thing.
$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts
$380 million in the Senate bill for the Women, Infants and Children program
$300 million for grants to combat violence against women
$2 billion for federal child-care block grants
$6 billion for university building projects
$15 billion for boosting Pell Grant college scholarships
$4 billion for job-training programs, including $1.2 billion for “youths” up to the age of 24
$1 billion for community-development block grants
$4.2 billion for “neighborhood stabilization activities”
$650 million for digital-TV coupons; $90 million to educate “vulnerable populations”
POORLY DESIGNED TAX RELIEF
$15 billion for business-loss carry-backs
$145 billion for “Making Work Pay” tax credits
$83 billion for the earned income credit
STIMULUS FOR THE GOVERNMENT
$150 million for the Smithsonian
$34 million to renovate the Department of Commerce headquarters
$500 million for improvement projects for National Institutes of Health facilities
$44 million for repairs to Department of Agriculture headquarters
$350 million for Agriculture Department computers
$88 million to help move the Public Health Service into a new building
$448 million for constructing a new Homeland Security Department headquarters
$600 million to convert the federal auto fleet to hybrids
$450 million for NASA (carve-out for “climate-research missions”)
$600 million for NOAA (carve-out for “climate modeling”)
$1 billion for the Census Bureau
$89 billion for Medicaid
$30 billion for COBRA insurance extension
$36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits
$20 billion for food stamps
$4.5 billion for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
$850 million for Amtrak
$87 million for a polar icebreaking ship
$1.7 billion for the National Park System
$55 million for Historic Preservation Fund
$7.6 billion for “rural community advancement programs”
$150 million for agricultural-commodity purchases
$150 million for “producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish”
$2 billion for renewable-energy research ($400 million for global-warming research)
$2 billion for a “clean coal” power plant in Illinois
$6.2 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program
$3.5 billion for energy-efficiency and conservation block grants
$3.4 billion for the State Energy Program
$200 million for state and local electric-transport projects
$300 million for energy-efficient-appliance rebate programs
$400 million for hybrid cars for state and local governments
$1 billion for the manufacturing of advanced batteries
$1.5 billion for green-technology loan guarantees
$8 billion for innovative-technology loan-guarantee program
$2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects
$4.5 billion for electricity grid
REWARDING STATE IRRESPONSIBILITY
$79 billion for State Fiscal Stabilization Fund
You add it up. Estimates say that only 17% of these funds would be spent in the first year.
No – pork and relief.
The Democrats just couldn’t bring themselves to eliminate the “Buy American” provison of the stimulus bill. They owe Big Labor and I”m sure Big Labor reminded them of that prior to the vote:
On another contentious issue, the Senate softened a labor-backed provision requiring that only U.S.-made iron or steel used in construction projects paid for in the bill. A move by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to delete the so-called Buy American requirement failed, 31-65.
But with Obama voicing concern about the provision, the requirement was changed to specify that U.S. international trade agreements not to be violated.
Read that last line carefully. How in the world does keeping the “Buy American” requirement not violate US international trade agreements?
Hope and change.
Given the vaunted status of tax cheats amongst the Democrats, you’re all shocked, I’m sure:
House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel predicted, on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program that aired Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009, that his multitude of ethics woes would soon disappear. “I think that next Tuesday you will see a break in this and as soon as the Ethics Committee organizes they ought to be able to dismiss this,” National Journal’s CongressDaily quoted the Rangel as saying.
If so, it’s hard to imagine that the Select Committee on Ethics will have devoted anything more than a cursory glance at the various issues raised. Consider just one aspect, for which documents are in the public record: Rangel’s financial disclosure forms. We took a look at his filings going all the way back to 1978, the first year members were required to disclose information on their personal finances, and found 28 instances in which he failed to report acquiring, owning or disposing of assets. Assets worth between $239,026 and $831,000 appear or disappear with no disclosure of when they were acquired, how long they were held, or when they were sold, as the operative House rules at the time required.
This is all according to Charlie, of course. Much like the Obama team clearing itself of any inappropriate behavior in the Blagojevich troubles, taking Charlie’s word here would not be advisable. However, he seems to know that something is coming, and considering that Speaker Pelosi made little to no effort to support the investigation, we shouldn’t be surprised if Rangel walks away from this with his Chairmanship still intact.
Most ethical Congress ever!
Far be it for me to advocate anything to do with the travesty of taxation that takes place in this country right now, but it sure is becoming clear why most Democrats have no problem with tax increases.
Tom Daschle, under increasing fire for his tax problems (i.e. not paying them) has reportedly withdrawn his name from consideration for HHS Secretary. Take a deep breath America – that’s good news.
Its early so it isn’t clear if he was warned off by Senate colleagues, asked to do so by the Obama administration (although that seems less likely given Obama’s endorsement yesterday) or had a fit of ethical conscience and did it himself. Whatever the reason, I’m happy about it.
Oh, and another Obama appointee has also withdrawn from consideration with tax problems:
Nancy Killefer, the management consultant and former Treasury official who had been picked by President Obama to serve as the country’s chief performance officer, has withdrawn from consideration for the post, White House officials confirmed this morning.
In a two-paragraph resignation letter, Killefer indicated that controversy over failure to pay taxes by two other high-profile nominees of Obama’s had convinced her to decline the new president’s request to join his administration. Shortly after her appointment, the Associated Press reported that Killefer had a tax lien placed on her house by the D.C. government because she had not paid unemployment taxes for her household help.
Killefer at least had the good grace to step aside before it got to the Daschle stage.
That Obama administration vetting process? Awesome, no?
Hope and change.
[HT: Scott Jacobs]
Here at QandO we’ve written fairly extensively about the incidence of Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) over the last few years. We’ve wondered aloud, or at least in print, what the left would do once Bush was no longer available to hate?
Would it dissipate and change into OLS (that’s Obama Love Syndrome) or would it simply be transferred to some other someone on the right the left loves to hate?
Well, in what most people consider a rookie mistake, Mr. Obama gave us the answer. He called out Rush Limbaugh (and ended up looking worse for it) and the BDS sufferers – who were experiencing withdrawal symptoms not related to Iraq – had a new figure on whom they could lavish their derangement anew.
With his explicit attack on Limbaugh during a Capitol Hill meeting last week, Obama has signaled the end of Bush Derangement Syndrome – the defining mental illness of the Democrats for eight years – and ushered in the age of Rush Derangement Syndrome.
You would think that victories in the presidential race and Congress would be enough for the Left. But no. Like Captain Ahab, Sen. Lindsay Graham still bristles at the “loud folks” in conservative talk radio. Democrats even drafted a petition denouncing Limbaugh last week, showing that trying to save the economy doesn’t wait for petty personal attacks.
Too bad Obama hasn’t learned the lessons of his predecessors. Limbaugh not only has survived countless protests, boycotts, media smears and political attempts to kick him off the airwaves. He has emerged each time with a higher profile, greater influence, and a strengthened hand.
Yes indeed, the transfer of power is complete. Gotta love the left’s complete cluelessness about certain things.
Hope and change.
Tom Daschle a few years ago [pdf]:
Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter.
Tom Daschle today:
“Daschle spokeswoman Jenny Backus said he had known since June 208 that his luxury car and driver provided by wealthy Democratic donor, longtime friend and business associate Leo Hindery might be taxable, but never expected the amount to be such a ‘jaw-dropping’ sum and ‘thought it was being taken care of’ by his accountant.”
Of course he did. Let’s get real here – he never really checked or cared until he found out he was in line to take a cabinet post with the most ethical administration ever. And then suddenly it was both important and a priority.
Say “hi” to Tim Geithner for us, will you Tom?
Hope and change.
[Via Don Surber]
The promise: Lobbyists would be categorically denied jobs in the Obama administration, no exceptions.
It is easy to project yourself as a clean politician after making your debut in South Side Chicago with buddies like Rahm Emanuel. US president Obama has appointed more than 17 lobbyists after talking big on anti-lobbyist Governance and rooting corruption out of the American Government.
Dreams are dreams. Facts are facts.
Would you believe, Obama had to issue 17 waivers on his own rule in less than two weeks for allowing lobbyist enter his Administration and control Governance of America!
Of course you have to read about it in the foreign press since our MSM appears uninterested in such things.
Hope and change.
Take a gander at that chart. James Joyner put it together to illustrate why the Republicans might not be that concerned with cooperating with Democrats right now.
It’s certainly nothing particularly new in politics. When Republicans were the majority party in both houses of Congress and had a Republican President, it was much the same for Democrats at the time. And we watched Tom Daschle and the boys in the Senate act just like one would expect a minority party with the above choices to act. That is, they mostly said “no” to almost everything the Republican administration wanted.
The difference at the time was there were much closer numbers on both sides in the Senate so that luring Democrats to pass anything was a necessary thing. Then “bi-partisanship”, like it or not, was a necessity. Then flavoring the bill enough to attract Democrats was something which had to be done.
Now that’s not necessary at all.
Now, with the possibility of a 58th Democratic Senator (if Republican Sen. Gregg accepts the Commerce post, the Democratic Governor of NH will surely name a Democrat to that seat) and two “independents” who have and always will caucus with the Senate Democrats, they don’t need Republicans at all. The Republican minority in this session doesn’t even enjoy the power it had in the last session of Congress or that was enjoyed by the Democrats when they were last in the minority. It is a completely different game.
That reality actually makes it a little easier for Republicans to vote “no”. They know the inevitable consequences of voting”yes” for anything the administration wants will leave them out in the cold when credit is due or holding the bag when the policy fails. It’s a lose-lose situation. Why voluntarily put your party in that position in the name of some nebulous goal of the other party – namely bi-partisanship?
Instead, become the adamant (although mostly powerless), principled opposition, become a shadow government and offer alternatives to what is being rammed through by Democrats in Congress without your wanted or needed participation. Solidarity of purpose (principled opposition) is now the Republican’s most effective weapon.
Oh, and Republicans – for a change, make sure the public understands your alternatives and why you’re against what you’re against. Hire a PR firm if you have too, but get the word out – effectively – before the other side paints you as nothing more than petty obstructionists (remember it is hard to be either petty or an obstructionist when you don’t have the power to defeat the vote in either house of Congress if the Democrats stick together).