The $900 Billion Question
By Isaac MacMillen
As the so-called “Stimulus” bill tops $900 billion in the Senate—inching ever forward to that landmark $1 trillion—the frenzy over passing it becomes stronger by the day. In fact, anyone who has shown even a passing interest in the news this past year will sense a familiar theme: Pay now or the economy will collapse and die.
The question begs asking: Will this do anything to restore the economy, or is it just another special-interest bailout that accomplishes little or nothing anytime soon? If recent history is any guide, look for the latter.
Recently, it has come to light that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was recorded by C-SPAN claiming that “[e]very month that we do not have an economic recovery package, 500 million Americans lose their jobs.” While obviously a freudian slip (she likely meant to say “thousand,” not “million”), it serves as an unintentional illustration of strategy that the advocates of Big Government are using to force its bloated, special-interest bill down taxpayer throats.
The ruse started last year, when a worried Bush Administration proclaimed that its $150 billion stimulus was necessary to keep the economy from flatlining. In the State of the Union Address, then-President Bush stated that it would “keep our economy growing and our people working. And this Congress must pass it as soon as possible.” Treasury Secretary Paul stopped short of calling the economic situation an “emergency,” but cautioned that there was an “urgent need” for the bill.
The first bailouts were passed with cries for action, as proponents declared that inaction could trigger a worldwide depression. President Bush echoed, after the Citigroup bailout, that it was “necessary” to “safeguard” the financial system. And, or course, they had little or no effect at all (other than paying for AIG's $440,000 executive retreat).
And now, embattled Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is said to be considering a new bailout, of about $1 Trillion. No doubt we again will hear of the “urgent” need to pass it to avoid the “looming” economic “disaster.”
It is high irony that the man who sought to portray himself as the candidate of “hope,” running against those who would use “fear” for their ends, has himself embraced governing by “fear,” to induce action. President Obama himself is using words such as “urgent” and “extraordinary” to describe the economic situation, while labeling American people as “scared.”
As recently as today, the President has stated that, if his stimulus bill is not passed, a “catastrophe” will result. “A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a longer recession, a less robust recovery, and a more uncertain future.” He urged the Senate not to “make the perfect the enemy of the essential.”
His Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, agrees with this tactic. “Rule One: Never allow a crisis to go to waste. They are opportunities to do big things,” he said in a recent interview. Big Spending, Big Government, and Big Special Interests are big things indeed.
Informing the American people as to the gravity of a situation is always advisable; but using the “politics of fear” to coerce them into action on behalf of an ideologically-based, high-risk agenda is at best imprudent. The fact that two very different administrations are engaging in the same behavior reveals the farcical nature of the 'urgency' claim. Yes, the economy is bad; yes, steps need to be taken to enable the economy to right itself. But to exploit the threat of a worsening economy to plunge the nation into debt is not only fiscally irresponsible, it is, to put it bluntly, morally reprehensible.
In the end, the last Big Government intravenous financial infusion is always deemed 'not enough.' After each round, the cry is raised anew: The government must spend money it does not have to save the economy—NOW!
What the advocates of Big Government have been doing is something akin to the strategy employed in the First World War, where generals saw multitudes slain by machine gun fire and yet continued to order frontal assaults. As in the Great War, today's cost is borne not by those in power, but by the foot-soldier of the country, the American taxpayer. And unless they can force those in power to change tactics, the body count—both economic and monetary—will continue to rise as the economic carnage continues.
Indeed, Speaker Pelosi's latest round of comments was not the first time she has used absurd hyperbole to make a hyperbolic point. Last month, she told FOX's Chris Wallace that not enacting Obama's stimulus would be costly: “Five hundred million people will lose their jobs each month until we have an economic package.” Wallace corrected her, but apparently her excitement over myriads of special interest spending had rendered her blissfully ignorant.
While Speaker Pelosi may have misspoken (repeatedly),her statements were indicative of how Big Government politicians have consistently sought to use the current economic downturn to inspire fear and force through Congress massive government intervention in private industry—which would hardly be tolerated in any other circumstance.
The bill before the Senate will not help the US economy. The amount of special-interest pork contained in it is shocking. As Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has said: “It is a bill designated to spend money we don't have on programs we don't need. And it will not work.”
House Republicans achieved a moral victory when they voted against the House stimulus. Senate Republicans now need to join their House colleagues in opposing this monstrous special-interest bill—and any other candy-laden compromise that Senate Democrats might offer to entice them. The pressure is on—yesterday, 18 conservative leaders compiled a letter in opposition to the “stimulus” package.
And they are not alone.
According to the latest Rasmussen Reports, grassroots opposition to the bogus “stimulus” package is mounting daily—down nearly 10 points in the past two weeks with only 37% of Americans now favoring the legislation. A new site called CongressWhip.com is said to be spearheading the opposition.
Concerned citizens might want to visit there to sign the petition telling Mrs. Pelosi and her fellow politicians that the American people won't be spooked into giving in to their fear tactics—even if another 500 million of us lose our jobs next month.
Isaac MacMillen is a contributing editor of ALG News Bureau.