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Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009

Stimulus package a good first step.

...But no Package is perfect

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The slings and arrows are flying thicker than the skies at Agincourt over President Obama's economic stimulus package. Passed by the House and currently being debated in the Senate, the stimulus package, if passed, would be a much needed triumph for Obama, whose administration has been tarnished right out of the starting gate by financial misdeeds on the part of his chosen advisors.

The package, priced between 800 and 900 million dollars, is designed to help the country emerge from the recession by creating jobs. Simply, the Obama administration wishes to put people to work repairing and improving the nation's roads, bridges, levees, etc., and developing a new arena of "green industries." Foes of the plan argue that the bill is too expensive (the government IS, in fact, bankrupt, and borrows millions of funds from foreign countries monthly just to keep the lights on), that the envisioned spending won't offer immediate relief (much of the money wouldn't even start flowing until next year), and that the money will be spent foolishly, on everything thing from comfier chairs at the National Endowment for the Arts to a $4million tennis center in Arlington, Texas.

Very well, let us look at these arguments

Cost. The United States spends, and has spent for almost 6 years, over $100 million dollars a day on its failed occupation of Iraq. $595,062,480,899 dollars spent to date, and not one weapon of mass destruction. Nice job there. By comparison, Obama's paltry spending bill is miniscule. I think that is all I need say about the size of the stimulus package, except to opine that I think it needs to be larger.

The second argument, that the spending will offer no immediate benefits to the economy is harder to refute. If the estimate of the Congressional Budget Office is correct, 2010 is a long time to wait for money which is badly needed now. Also difficult to rebut is the charge that the bill is laden with pork. Unfortunately, every spending bill is laden with pork, and you're fooling yourself if you think otherwise. Republicans and Democrats are all swine at the same trough, and if you think there is a difference between the two parties, I could recommend some books. In an alternate universe where the President had "line-item veto" powers, and the final bill was clearly presented to the public, you might see an elimination of wasteful spending, but come now, we're due back on planet Earth, where each and EVERY congressperson and senator will attach millions for their own voting constituencies. As I write this, I just heard a report that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added $33 million for economic development of American Samoa, where her husband has millions of dollars of stock in Starkist Tuna. Hmm.

I must also concede the point that the package would be far more palatable if it were to include some corporate tax breaks to stimulate private sector growth. Government can put people directly to work, but the numbers are small compared to the private sector, which is where most of us work.

No, this stimulus package, as is, is not perfect, despite what Senator Durbin says. There is a lot of room for improvement. I agree with the spirit of the proposal, but since the funds won't be immediately spent anyway, surely there is time to rework it into a more comprehensive strategy which eliminates some of the admittedly silly spending, and gets money flowing more rapidly into the economy.

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