Saturday, February 14, 2009

Americans Don't Care About Pork?

Wasteful spending is a common practice by the federal government. Major bills are often greased with pork spending to get things through the legislative process. The political elite seems to believe that the American people are not concerned about this reality. In fact, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York stood on the floor of the US Senate and lamented the complaints of the "chattering class" (aka radio hosts) and said that the American people simply don't care.

If he is right, the old cliche is true -- ignorance is bliss. Democrat leaders in Congress and the White House are using our economic troubles as an excuse to perform things they would never be able to get away with under normal circumstances. The stimulus package of over $780 billion was printed one evening and was expected to be voted on the next day. Not a single Member of either Houses of Congress read that bill in its entirety (nor did the vast majority of their staff). The only ones that were intimately familiar with the bill were the lobbyists who glued it together. Maybe Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was right when he said "Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." You have to appreciate his honesty.

For every dollar spent on stimulus, hundreds were spent in political paybacks designed to keep the Democratic party in power for years to come. With only 3 Republicans voting for it as it went through the process, this was nothing more than a gift to political allies. A very expensive gift at that.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed the pork and they declared that they "couldn't believe" what they saw. "There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons."

The Journal also points out that, in spite of Obama's promises that this bill would provide stimulus, it is next to impossible to find examples of such happening, noting "some $30 billion, or less than 5% of the spending in the bill, is for fixing bridges or other highway projects. There's another $40 billion for broadband and electric grid development, airports and clean water projects that are arguably worthwhile priorities." How about those exciting business tax cuts designed to spur economic activity? We find that if you "add the roughly $20 billion for business tax cuts, and by our estimate only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus. And even many of these projects aren't likely to help the economy immediately. "

Candidate Obama promised four days of public review of legislation online before a bill would become a law. This final bill flew went to the House 24 hours after it left the Senate. The last thing the Obama administration wanted was serious review. It shouldn't be a surprise, this bill is about payback to all of the lobbyists and special interest groups that took the Democrats from the outhouse to the White House.
Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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