The stimulus package the U.S. Congress is completing would raise the government’s commitment to solving the financial crisis to $9.7trillion, enough to pay off more than 90 percent of the nation’s home mortgages.
The Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have lent or spent almost $3 trillion over the past two years and pledged up to $5.7 trillion more. The Senate is to vote this week on an economic-stimulus measure of at least $780 billion. It would need to be reconciled with an $819 billion plan the House approved last month.
Again, that’s “trillion” with a “T”. In order to grasp the magnitude of that much spending, understand that you can reasonably round the number to $10 Trillion and thereby assume an extra $300 Billion, which is about the amount of TARP funds already pushed out the front doors of Congress. It’s also about one third of the amount being debated in Congress right now. In other words, the stimulus funds are pennies compared to amount of money already spent and/or promised.
Here’s another way to look at it (my emphasis):
The $9.7 trillion in pledges would be enough to send a $1,430 check to every man, woman and child alive in the world. It’s 13 times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Congressional Budget Office data, and is almost enough to pay off every home mortgage loan in the U.S., calculated at $10.5 trillion by the Federal Reserve.
It’s a lot of money. So why is it that we’re only privy to the debate (if it can be called that) over a measly 10% of the spending?
“We’ve seen money go out the back door of this government unlike any time in the history of our country,” Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, said on the Senate floor Feb. 3. “Nobody knows what went out of the Federal Reserve Board, to whom and for what purpose. How much from the FDIC? How much from TARP? When? Why?”
The pledges, amounting to almost two-thirds of the value of everything produced in the U.S. last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up about 18 months ago. The promises are composed of about $1 trillion in stimulus packages, around $3 trillion in lending and spending and $5.7 trillion in agreements to provide aid.
Many of us were disappointed with the spending habits of “compassionate conservativism” and lamented how it merely approximated socialist government policies with a friendly face. Of course, the alternative to Bush was real-deal socialist spending and a weakening of our national security.
Now we’re getting the full-on brunt of a dour-visaged collectivist government, employing a magician’s sleight of hand, and it makes the compassionate conservatism look positively stingy in comparison. While we argue over $800 Billion, another $9 Trillion is quietly being shoveled out the backdoor with little to no accountability.
When Congress approved the TARP on Oct. 3, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged the need for transparency and oversight. The Federal Reserve so far is refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return.
There’s no doubt that the Bush administration greased the skids, but Obama is running a rocket sled of spending, and there does not appear to be any end in sight.
One has to wonder when Atlas will finally shrug.
Or is this just “cynical manipulation?”
President Obama in Elkhart, IN today (email transcript – Fed. News Svc) in answer to a question by Helen Castello, a person in the crowd attending the rally:
So — so we may — we may debate– we — we can debate, you know, whether you’d rather have this tax cut versus that tax cut or this project versus that project. Be clear, though, that there aren’t — there aren’t individual pork projects that members of Congress are putting into this bill. Regardless of what the critics say, there are no earmarks in this bill. That’s part of the change that we’re bringing to Washington, is making sure that this money is well-spent to actually create jobs right here in Elkhart.
No earmarks huh? Does President Obama really know that? Or even believe it?
Here he is addressing the House Democrats in Williamsburg last Friday night:
Then there’s the argument, well, this is full of pet projects. When was the last time that we saw a bill of this magnitude move out with no earmarks in it? Not one. (Applause.)
We report. You decide.
But you have to wonder how Ms. Castello, who gushed all over Mr. Obama, must now feel knowing he lied to her face about earmarks knowing full well, as indicated by his remarks to Democrats, that the bill indeed included earmarks?
Hope and change.
UPDATE: Here’s a link from a local TV station in Indiana which validates the first quote (although they end up paraphrasing Obama).
The Promise And The Reality (Part II) – Massive Waste, Fraud And Abuse Likely With Passage Of “Stimulus” Bill
The fear-mongering and panic inducing rhetoric used by the Obama administration and Congresional Democrats concerning the “stimulus” bill has set up another probable broken promise – this time on an unimaginably massive scale.
The Promise: The end of wasteful government spending and more accountability:
-Make Government Spending More Accountable and Efficient: Obama and Biden will ensure that federal contracts over $25,000 are competitively bid. Obama and Biden will also increase the efficiency of government programs through better use of technology, stronger management that demands accountability and by leveraging the government’s high-volume purchasing power to get lower prices.
- End Wasteful Government Spending: Obama and Biden will stop funding wasteful, obsolete federal government programs that make no financial sense. Obama and Biden have called for an end to subsidies for oil and gas companies that are enjoying record profits, as well as the elimination of subsidies to the private student loan industry which has repeatedly used unethical business practices. Obama and Biden will also tackle wasteful spending in the Medicare program.
The administration’s promise was transparency, bid competition, and new auditing resources and oversight boards.
The Reality: But this “stimulus” bill will most likely overwhelm any ability to properly monitor the spending anticipated. And, if such proper monitoring and regulating of spending is indeed required, it will drastically slow the spending process which is supposed to provide the stimulus.
The Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan could end up wasting billions of dollars by attempting to spend money faster than an overburdened government acquisition system can manage and oversee it, according to documents and interviews with contracting specialists.
The $827 billion stimulus legislation under debate in Congress includes provisions aimed at ensuring oversight of the massive infusion of contracts, state grants and other measures. At the urging of the administration, those provisions call for transparency, bid competition, and new auditing resources and oversight boards.
But under the terms of the stimulus proposals, a depleted contracting workforce would be asked to spend more money more rapidly than ever before, while also improving competition and oversight. Auditors would be asked to track surges in spending on projects ranging from bridge construction and schools to research of “green” energy and the development of electronic health records — a challenge made more difficult because many contracts would be awarded by state agencies.
The stimulus plan presents a stark choice: The government can spend unprecedented amounts of money quickly in an effort to jump-start the economy or it can move more deliberately to thwart the cost overruns common to federal contracts in recent years.
“You can’t have both,” said Eileen Norcross, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center who studied crisis spending in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “There is no way to get around having to make a choice.”
So here’s the choice – remove the oversight, drop the transparancy, go with “no-bid” contracts and eschew the auditing process which will slow the spending to a trickle, or keep them in place and accept the molasses slow flow of supposed stimulus funds.
The probability is we’ll see the promise go by the boards. Why? Because of the insistence by both Congressional leaders and the administration that this bill be passed now, that it can’t wait and that it shouldn’t be debated (and by implication, shouldn’t be closely examined either).
“We don’t have the means to make sure we don’t blow through billions of dollars and give it to the wrong people,” said Keith Ashdown, chief investigator at the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense. “We’re on track to lose billions, if not tens of billions, to waste, fraud and abuse.”
Goodger said the federal contracting system has been extremely troubled in recent years. He emphasized the lack of trained employees to manage contracts, which he called a “human capital crisis.”
Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a group that represents government contractors, does not oppose the stimulus package. But he said the government appears to lack the planning and the “infrastructure and architecture” upfront to manage the spending.
“Without it,” he said, “we’re going to have a repeat of what we’ve seen over and over and over, from major weapons systems to Katrina and Iraq.”
Hope and change.
Despite all the happy talk about hope and change concerning America’s foreign policy the reality is every nation out there has its own agenda and America still stands in the way of many of them. In the case of our allies, their agenda usually entails seeing how much of the load they can get America carry. And, while the hope, hype and spin claim that this is the dawn of a new era, in reality the clock is ticking:
The danger is that, as the novelty of the Obama administration begins to wear off the U.S. will be left with little more to show for its renewed focus on diplomacy than the Bush administration achieved.
Before that occurs, U.S. officials are hoping a willingness to engage in a way that the Bush administration never was will produce progress. Major reviews of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Iran are currently under way and are expected to produce new options for Obama within several weeks.
The options produced may be new for Obama, but will they be new for those nations at which they’re aimed? And will they address the fundamental problems in the areas they are intended or will they simply be the same policies with shiny new names? While Obama may come up with what he considers many new options, in reality the options are quite limited when it comes to some of the nations who are going to challenge him (and that will be dictated by the attitude those nations take to any new Obama initiatives).
As the Washington Times notes, his foreign affairs problems are beginning to cascade:
On Friday, Pakistan – the recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. aid – released from house arrest Abdul Qadeer Khan, the nuclear scientist who for two decades ran a black market that sold nuclear-weapons technology to U.S. adversaries including Iran and Libya.
Two days earlier, Kyrgyzstan announced that it would not renew a U.S. lease at
the Manas air base, a critical transshipment point in the Afghanistan war. Meanwhile, the Russians – who offered Kyrgyzstan $2 billion in cash and loans to oust the Americans – said that they intend to establish a new base in a breakaway enclave of Georgia, the country Moscow invaded over the summer in response to a Georgian assault on another enclave.
If this were not enough, Iran last week launched a crude satellite into space, suggesting that the Islamic regime has mastered at least some of the technology for multistage, long-range missiles.
Finally, Yemen on Sunday announced that it had released 170 men arrested on suspicion of having ties to al Qaeda. Just two weeks earlier, the terrorist group called Yemen its base for the entire Arabian Peninsula.
And let’s not forget that the Obama administration has already upset India with its claim that it would involve itself in the India/Pakistani dispute over Kashmir.
A president’s primary job involves foreign policy. He is the sole architect and executor of it. But thus far, it seems more of a distraction than a focus for Obama. He has primarily concerned himself with his domestic agenda and delegated his foreign policy role to Biden – at least for the time being. But Biden isn’t the decision maker and lack of focus on foreign affairs could see the US end up, diplomatically, behind the power curve if enemies perceive him as not being fully engaged and his diplomatic effort lacking leadership. That is a weakness they would try to exploit.
If that ends up happening, all of this happy talk will quickly go out of the window and the Obama administration could be facing the same stark choices, and options, that his predecessor faced – if he’s lucky.
If you harbored any doubt about the real purpose of the recent S-CHIP bill which expanded government health care, these excerpts should remove it:
Obama at a White House signing ceremony said, “I refuse to accept that millions of our children fail to reach their full potential because we fail to meet their basic needs” (Pulizzi/Johnson, Wall Street Journal, 2/4). He added, “In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to tradeoffs or negotiation, and health care for our children is one of those obligations” (Mussenden, Media General News/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/5). He said, “The way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children [through SCHIP] is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American” (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 2/5). He continued, “It is just one component of a much broader effort to finally bring our health care system into the 21st century,” adding, “I am confident that, if we work together, if we come together, we can finally achieve what generations of Americans have fought for and fulfill the promise of health care in our time” (Washington Times, 2/5).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “This is the beginning of the change that the American people voted for in the last election and that we will achieve with President Obama” (Los Angeles Times, 2/5). Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said, “I cannot think of a better investment than the health of our children” (Graham, “Triage,” Chicago Tribune, 2/4). Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said, “We’ve waited far too long for this day. America’s kids should be guaranteed comprehensive care whether they need dental care, mental health, medical or surgical treatment” (Rhee, “Political Intelligence,” Boston Globe, 2/4). House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said, “While this bill is short of our ultimate goal of health reform, it is a down payment, and is an essential start” (New York Times, 2/5).
Keep your eye on the ball because this is moving very, very quickly.
Joltin’ Joe Biden previewed it in Germany yesterday:
As promised, Vice President Joe Biden reached out to the international community Saturday, saying the U.S. is open for talks with Iran and Russia to repair relations, and willing to work with allies to solve world problems.But in his first major foreign policy speech for the new administration, the Democrat also warned that the U.S. stands ready to take pre-emptive action against Tehran if it does not abandon its nuclear ambitions and support for terrorism.
Repair relations? Just words at the moment.
Pre-emptive action? I thought we quit doing that stuff. OK, pre-emptive action. Also known as maintenance of the status quo policy. “We want to repair relations but reserve the right to pre-emptively attack Iran”.
Good luck with that.
And while he said it is time to mend fences with Moscow, he said the U.S. continues “to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven and it is cost-effective.”
Continue to develop missile defenses? Status quo – but again, with the caveat “we want to mend fences”.
Good luck with that.
The article notes that Biden was “short on details”. No particular surprise there. But apparently the “tone” was just music to the diplomats ears.
“I think Vice President Biden came to Munich today in a spirit of partnership,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told AP Television News. “I think he set an ambitious agenda with big goals and high objectives, and he called and challenged us to work with him. I think that’s the right spirit.”
That hits me as diplo-speak for “he’s going to do things the way we want them done”. And, of course, that’s not leadership.
Understand too that diplomats are also going to give this a positive spin because they stand to gain from it. That’s why Russia said:
“The tonality was rather encouraging. It was really a serious call to restart U.S. foreign policy — including, clearly, Russian-American relations,” said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the international relations committee in Russia’s lower parliament house.
That’s diplo-speak for “we think we can roll these guys”.
What details Biden did give included the aforementioned continuation of the missile defense and this:
“It’s time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia,” said Biden. Yet, he added that the U.S. will continue to have differences with Moscow, including opposition to its efforts to carve out independent states in Georgia.
Again, “just words” and status quo.
And to Europe, Biden said:
Biden, who also met privately with a number of world leaders, including top officials from Russia, France, and Germany, told allies that they will be expected to share the burdens of fighting extremists and bolstering weaker governments and poor nations.
“America will do more, that’s the good news,” said Biden. “But the bad news is America will ask for more from our partners.”
I’m not sure why asking more from our “partners” is “bad news” but it certainly reflects a continuation of the status quo.
On another topic, Biden told the leaders that the U.S. needs their help in taking the detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He repeated Obama’s vow that the U.S. will adhere to its values, not torture, and will close the detention center at Guantanamo that has spurred such criticism from European allies.
Of course we’ve since learned that the Obama administration has reserved the right to approve more intensive interrogation techniques and, of course, you don’t need Guantanamo if you continue give the CIA permission to use rendition as a tool to deal with terrorists.
But apparently, to this point, that hasn’t really penetrated the good will that Obama still enjoys among the Euro types. Once the new wears off and they’re actually pushed to contribute “more” they’ll probably “discover” the duplicity of Biden’s words.
Hope and change.
Mr. Obama called Ms. Collins and Mr. Specter, as well as Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, another Republican expected to support the deal, to acknowledge they were acting against pressure from their party and, one official said, to thank them for their patriotism in helping advance the bill at a critical time.
So the man who bristled at any questioning of his patriotism now implies that those who won’t vote for this monstrosity of a bill are unpatriotic? I told you that dissent would become unpatriotic.
Hope and change.
For the Washington Post, it only takes 3 Republicans (out of approx 218 Congressional Republicans) to declare the “stimulus” bill to be a “bi-partisan” achievement.
As I said yesterday, and the WaPo article validates, those three who will vote for this give the veneer of bi-partisan legitimacy to the bill and something the left and its fellow travelers will use to give them cover.
Calling this bill “bi-partisan” is like calling Andrew Sullivan’s obsession with Sarah Pallin “rational”. But WaPo dutifully tries to frame the narrative:
The bipartisan deal was cut after two days of talks and would cut more than $100 billion from the $920 billion bill, dropping its cost to about $820 billion, if amendments added on the Senate floor are retained.
Of course the key phrase in that sentence is “if amendments added on the Senate floor are retained“. The bill must now be negotiated with the House and all of that which was cut may very well end up back in there. As Carl Cameron pointed out last night, you might expect bills with similar totals to be an easily negotiated, but that’s not the case. Different programs make up the amounts in each bill, and historically these negotiations haven’t lowered the totals for the final bill, but, instead, increased them – sometimes dramatically. And it is certainly possible those amendments added by Republicans could be discarded.
If that happens, and it is entirely possible, what will the three RINOs do then?
I‘ve got to say, if Robert Gibbs is the best they have, in terms of Presidential spokespersons, the press is going to eat him alive. To date he has not been impressive. Of course it helps if you’re not trying to spin so hard you simply look foolish.
As everyone knows, Obama signed an executive order calling for a freeze on all the military tribunals at Guantanamo for 120 days. One of the military judges, COL James Pohl, refused the order saying to do so would delay justice. The particular case he was presiding over concerned Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. That trial has now been suspended and charges dropped (without prejudice which, we’re told, means they can be brought again in the future).
Read this series of questions and answers. I believe the questions are asked by ABC’s Jake Tapper (Gibbs says “Jake” prior to the question (transcript via email):
Q The president later today is going to be meeting with a bunch of families of terrorist victims. A lot of the people he’s going to be meeting with take issue with his decision to stop the military commissions. They say that it’s been through an extensive legal and legislative review, the Supreme Court has weighed in, and they don’t understand what concerns the president has in this process. Could you explain what are some of the concerns the president has specifically about the military commissions?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think, the main concern that the president has is the military commissions’ failure to bring those in detention to swift justice.
The president invited family members, families of those that were killed, first in the USS Cole incident in 2000 and next in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, and wants to discuss his plan to bring about changes in Guantanamo that he believes will make this country safer and bring about the very same swift justice that they desire, on behalf of those that they know that have been killed.
Q I’m sorry. How does delaying or even renewing the trials make it any swifter?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the act that the Cole families are disappointed — the act that the Cole families were affected by happened in 2000. We’ve not yet seen justice brought now in 2009 to Mr. al-Nashiri.
Judge Crawford withdrew the charges without prejudice to reinstatement of those charges. Mr. al-Nashiri remains in detention. And her decision brings all cases into compliance with the executive order that the president issues.
But I think if you look at the number of those awaiting justice and those that have gone through the process, I think you’ll see quite clearly that very few, very few have been brought to justice.
The discussion that the president looks forward to having today is part of the ongoing process with how to move forward. I don’t believe that the families affected, by the terrorist incident with the USS Cole, have seen — they certainly haven’t seen this president.
I don’t believe they saw the last president either. And the president thought it was important to listen to their very personal cares and their concerns about anything that’s involved in this process.
Q The arraignment of al-Nashiri was supposed to be Monday, but because of the executive order of the president, Crawford suspended the — the charges. I still don’t understand how this is going to make the — (inaudible). I understand the cases that haven’t been heard, but justice delayed –
MR. GIBBS: Without getting into some of the specific aspects of this case, I think the president believed that the best course of action going forward to bring about the justice that both he and the families seek in this case was to go through the very process that Judge Crawford has done and the executive order that the president has signed.
You have to love that question – “How does delaying or even renewing the trials make it any swifter?”
Amazingly, it doesn’t!
And Gibbs answer is simply pathetic – it doesn’t even begin to address the point of th question.
As you might imagine, the families of the Cole victims are less than enthusiastic about the Obama decision. Apparently they’re having a rough time puzzling out the answer to that question as well.
Hope and change.
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.