Sunday, July 12, 2009

Slow Stimulus (updated)

If I’m in an emergency room and my heart stops I certainly hope that the doctor in charge doesn’t decide to apply an "Obama stimulus" to restart it.
I don’t think that one volt applied for 200 minutes would do much good.

The $787 billion stimulus was a misnomer to begin with, of course, since 42% of it was trivial tax cuts that were about as simulative as a picture of Alaska’s Ted Stevens to a teenaged girl. The part of it that was job creative was seemingly designed to create jobs over a period of several years, which is social policy not stimulus.

From the San Francisco Chronicle today,
High-speed rail projects are slower going. Caltrans met the Friday deadline to submit preliminary applications for $22.3 billion in passenger and high-speed rail projects in three main corridors: San Francisco-San Jose (which includes improvements to San Francisco's Transbay Terminal), Los Angeles-Anaheim and the Central Valley.

Six months after passage of the stimulus bill the process of applying for, making “preliminary applications” for, $80 billion of that money, for high speed rail projects, is still in process. Not only has that money not yet been spent, not only is that money not yet creating jobs, we do not yet know where it will be spent. The high speed rail projects are not only not yet off of the drawing board, they are not yet on the drawing board.

That is social policy, not economic stimulus, and it is tying up funds that could have been used as stimulus. It is holding out a promise of jobs at some indefinite date in the future, and could have been used to provide jobs now, which was the purported purpose of the stimulus bill.

Not only did Obama allow Congress to craft this sham of a “stimulus bill,” but he praised it as a “signal accomplishment” and is continuing to do so to this day.

Republicans made a mockery of the high speed rail issue, but it was valid criticism and they should have addressed it in a more serious way instead of making jokes about it and allowing the supporters of the bill to disregard their jokes.

The fact is that Congress did load this bill with issues like the high speed rail that were social policy and with items that were just plain pork; all of which diluted its ability to create immediate jobs and stimulate the economy. The concomitant fact is that Obama failed to call Congress out for doing that, and instead praised and signed a bill that made a mockery of its purported purpose.

And now, when then inevitable weakness of the bill is being manifested, we are told to “be patient” because the wise leaders in Washington know better than we do.

Update, 9:30am: In a Washington Post article today Obama is quoted as saying, "As I made clear at the time it was passed, the recovery act was not designed to work in four months -- it was designed to work over two years."

Why would one craft such a plan? With more than six million people out of work, and hundreds of thousands losing jobs every month, why would you deliberately design a plan that waited two full years to create jobs? Is there some value that Mr. Obama sees in people staying jobless for two years?

I have said it before and I will say it again. When FDR was confronted with a host of jobless people he didn't address social policy; he didn't address some long-term social needs; he didn't call for something on the order of an interstate highway project. He cared about the people who were out of work and he demanded projects that would put them to work immediately. It wasn't about the projects, it was about putting paychecks in the hands of people who needed to feed their families.

Obama doesn't give a damn about the jobless; he cares about his projects.

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