We’re all about bipartisan understanding here at ObWi – so I wanted to find a good thought-provoking critique from someone who feels the stimulus bill is full of waste. I needed a different perspective. So I checked out the Corner and K-Lo obliged. To illustrate the stimulus bill’s “wasteful spending,” K-Lo dutifully linked to this longer NRO article, which meticulously outlined 50 “of the most outrageous items in the stimulus package” (generally deemed outrages because they don’t stimulate). I decided to check this list out and report back to you, fair reader.
First outrageous item on the list – the bill provides $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts, so that the “unemployed can fill their days attending abstract-film festivals and sitar concerts.” That’s really funny. And you know who else would find it really funny? The 5 million or so Americans who work in the arts industry (including in support roles as, say, janitors). The people laid off by the Los Angeles Opera last month would also find it especially hilarious. After all, if there’s any one product that should be left entirely to market whims, it’s art.
Moving on to the next “outrageous” item on our list… $380 million for the “Women, Infants, and Children” Program. Certainly sounds wasteful to me. When I first read this part, I remember thinking, “could they be talking about the ‘WIC’ program?” But I quickly dismissed the thought. The WIC program is about giving money to poor parents to buy food for kids. It’s like the posterchild for stimulus.
Well, as it turns out, the first letters of “W”oman, “I”nfants, and “C”hildren do in fact spell WIC. And that’s exactly the program they were talking about. Surely we can all agree that there is nothing more outrageous and non-stimulative than giving money to poor parents to buy food for children.
Next up -- $300 million for “grants to combat violence against women.” Another outrage. And very non-stimulative – after all, new hiring by violence programs and transitional housing are not the kind of things that will pump money back into the economy. And besides, protecting violence against women isn’t a top priority now that we have Heller – they can just arm themselves. See how easy downward adjustments are?
Moving on -- $2 billion for “child-care block grants.” Really? I mean, really?
Next up -- $6 billion for university building projects. Yep, doesn’t get much less stimulative than that. This one seemed so absurd that I actually scrolled back up to see what they had written about it – “Perhaps spending $6 billion on university building projects will put some unemployed construction workers to work.” That’s no reason, though, to remove it from the List of 50 Outrages.
Next -- $15 billion for Pell Grants. At the outset, let me note that the goal of helping poor people go to college is a questionable one. It’s sort of outrageous actually that government would step on the market’s toes in this way. But even putting aside their general terribleness, Pell Grants also have significant stimulative benefits for universities and their local economies. Schools, after all, are experiencing cuts – and tuition and book payments would help. Not to mention that Pell Grants, you know, help poor people go to college.
The rest of the article is pretty much cut from the same cloth – though it’s divided into various sections. All the nutty provisions listed above – food for infants; education grants for poor people – are under the section entitled “Various Left-Wingery.”
The next section, though, is entitled “Poorly Designed Tax Relief.” In short, the section argues that taxes don’t give rich people enough money. And I agree with that. If the past 5 years have taught us anything, it’s that rich people need more money.
Next section – “Stimulus for the Government.” The gist here is that spending billions of dollars to renovate, improve, and construct facilities for federal agencies is outrageous. This line, though, was my personal favorite from that section:
For instance, the bill grants NASA $450 million, but it states that the agency must spend at least $200 million on “climate-research missions,” which raises the question: Is there global warming in space?
Ha, good one.
Next’er’roo – and, frankly, the most persuasive section of all – “Income Transfers.” The specific critiques here focus on the (1) $89 billion for Medicaid (because who works in the health profession these days, really?); (2) $30 billion for COBRA extension; (3) $36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits; and (4) $20 billion for food stamps.
Truly, our search for outrages has hit pay dirt. Study after study has shown that food stamp and unemployment spending are among the least effective ways to stimulate the economy. Plus, the goals themselves – you know, feeding people – are substantively questionable. Outrage!
And the winner for “Best Quote” in the Income Transfers section goes to:
As for extending unemployment benefits through the downturn, it might be a good idea for other reasons, but it wouldn’t stimulate economic growth: It would provide an incentive for job-seekers to delay reentry into the workforce.
I’m sure the people of Elkhart, Indiana might have a few thoughtful comments on that bit. They should take this show on the road.
I give up – you get the point. These authors took the time to find the 50 “most outrageous” items and this is the best they could do. All of the items noted above made the list of outrages.
This article captures the essence of the past two weeks’ debate better than anything else I’ve seen. Well done boys.