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Posts Tagged ‘stimulus’

One of the Democrats’ chief criticisms of the Bush Administration, one that sometimes had merit, was that it refused to alter its strategy or message in the face of new facts.  In foreign affairs, that meant it took us three years to react to the Iraqi insurgency in a manner beyond “staying the course.”  On the domestic front, that meant allowing several appointees to serve far longer than their records justified (Gonzales, McLellan, Powell, Rumsfeld) and establishing a bunker mentality in response to press criticism.

The Obama Administration struck at this central failing of the last regime by promising pragmatism and common-sense straight from the “reality-based community.” No longer would partisan bias cloud the White House’s response to the nation’s challenges.  Spin would be replaced by transparency.  Facts would drive policy, not the other way around.

But one year into the politics of hope and change, and we are seeing a pattern develop about how this crowd handles inconvenient facts.  All summer, the economic facts rolled in that the stimulus bill had done little to create jobs or improve the economy, and that the “shovel-ready” projects so urgently needed were figments of the Democratic imagination.  Rather than change course and respond with an alternative strategy, Joe Biden repeatedly claimed that the stimulus was working, and that things were better than they would have been.  Only recently, when the Administration wanted to pass a new stimulus, was it willing to acknowledge the grand failure that was spending $787 million billion for 2.5% fewer jobs.

When the mullahs of Iran bungled its election fix this summer, the Obama State Department first abetted it, then ignored it, then begrudgingly decried it before returning to full appeasement mode.  Iranians were left to shout a remarkably Bushian line at our President – “Obama, are you with us or are you against us?”   But the answer was clear — the White House was choosing to ignore a pro-freedom Iranian revolution in hopes for a deal with the despots.  Even so, deadline after deadline was ignored, deals were cut and then broken, and Ahmedinejad continues to promise death to Israel.  All the while, Team Obama has refused to acknowledge what even France has acknowledged — Iran is just playing out the clock while it builds a nuclear bomb.

On the eve of the global warming summit, stunning revelations about the science underlying the alleged global-catastrophe-in-waiting should have led a pragmatist to take a step back and review the facts before committing a country in the red to billions more in federal aid.  A pragmatist might have also postponed announcement of a sweeping regulatory decision based on that same science, which threatened to impose billions more in environmental compliance costs on a seriously wounded economy.  In an Administration committed to “restoring integrity to U.S. science policy to ensure that decisions that can be informed by science are made on the basis of the strongest possible evidence,” one might expect that getting the science right would be of the utmost concern.  Such an Administration, and such a pragmatist, is not in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, however.

Public doesn’t want Guantanamo closed?  Ignore them and do it anyway.  Released terrorists are returning to the war on terror?  Deny the war, release more terrorists.  Health care bill doesn’t bend the cost curve, which you required of any bill you’d sign?  Say it does anyway, and deny you ever required it to do that.  Islamic terrorists attack the U.S. three times in one year?  They’re lone wolves – we’ve got it all under control – but please stand in line another hour at the airport, just in case.

Carol Lee of Politico goes into greater depth about the P.R. tactics the White House has used to ignore the facts that threaten their worldview, but I’m more concerned about the worldview itself.  We have a president who ran exclusively on the idea that he was no ideologue, that he had no dog in the partisan fights that plague Washington, and that his Administration would rise above the pettiness and do what was necessary to reform and protect America. Given these facts, the pragmatist in me says there are only two ways to react to Year One of Obama: either our President is a lying ideologue, or he’s very, very bad at knowing what is necessary to reform and protect America.

The facts themselves are clear, however.  The President will be judged by the voters in November based on how he responds to the hard facts in Iran, the muddled half-truths of climate change, the plain facts of a falling dollar, a rising debt, and a nation out of work.  Rhetorical flourishes cannot change them.  I just hope our political leaders are prepared to face them.

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Senator Jim DeMint has highlighted a nasty little morsel in the Democratic stimulus legislation:

(2) PROHIBITED USES OF FUNDS.—No funds awarded under this section may be used for—

(C) modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities—

(i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or

(ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission; or construction of new facilities.

That’s right — the Democrats are insisting that if stimulus funds are used by a university to repair or renovate a campus building, that building is forever banned from housing “sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity.”

Think about that for a minute.  If a Syracuse dining hall has its windows replaced by the bill, students will be prohibited by federal law from saying a prayer before their meals.  If Duke University builds a classroom building to house its art department with stimulus money, in the year 2120, the local U.S. Attorney can go to court to enjoin the school from moving its Divinity School into the structure.  If the University of Georgia so much as changes a lightbulb purchased with stimulus money in its Chapel, it can arguably never host another marriage ceremony.  And perhaps most importantly, no sectarian university could ever contemplate receiving funds from the stimulus bill, because the bill would require it to establish a “no God allowed” building in the middle of its campus.

It’s an outrageous violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, which any Senator should understand upon first reading.  Established Supreme Court precedent has plainly prohibited government entities, such as public schools, from preventing individuals from exercising their religious liberty in orderly ways on public property.  But Sen. DeMint has already tried to remove the language via amendment, and the AMENDMENT FAILED.

In case you wondered if liberalism had truly run amok in this bill, this should decide the matter for you.  Even I never expected the Democrats to sink this low in week 3 of the Obama Administration.  Get on the phone, folks, and put an end to this madness.

Campus transit during the Obama Administration?

Campus transit during the Obama Administration?

Update: Malkin and the Corner are all over this.

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Republicans on Capitol Hill have been remarkably successful at demonstrating that the current spendulous bill doesn’t stimulate anything.  The popularity of the bill has dropped from 45-34% to 37-43% in two weeks’ time.  Perhaps most troubling for Democrats is that, among independents, the bill is now supported by 27% and opposed by 50%.  Did it really take only three weeks for Obama’s precious center to collapse?

The same Rasmussen poll shows that many voters still want the government to do something, although they fear that it will be the wrong thing:

Forty-six percent (46%) of voters remain concerned that the government will do too much in reacting to the nation’s economic problems. Forty-one percent (41%) are concerned that the government will do too little.

And to bolster all those who confirmed that President Obama still leads a center-right nation, Rasmussen tells us that a rather solid majority would support a stimulus plan consisting entirely of tax cuts:

A stimulus plan that includes only tax cuts is now more popular than the economic recovery plan being considered in Congress. Forty-five percent (45%) favor a tax-cut only plan while 34% are opposed…and voters strongly believe that tax cuts are good for the economy. Most Americans believe that a dollar of tax cuts is better for the economy than a dollar of government spending.

We all know it’s easier to attack than to lead, and the President may be far better at the former than the latter.  But these numbers show that there is an opening for an alternative proposal that will score well with the CBO as stimulative, focus heavily on tax cuts, and eliminate the long-term “transformative” spending that Obama is now selling the country (“This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending — it’s a strategy for America’s long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education.”).

Enter Bill Kristol, who outlines this approach in an insightful blog post for the Washington Post:

The Republican position should be: We’ll pass on this emergency timetable a real stripped-down emergency stimulus. But if Obama insists on legislation incorporating an alleged “strategy for America’s long-term growth,” then the country deserves hearings and debate that obviously will take some time. And Republicans should make clear they cannot agree to limiting debate to a couple of days on such momentous long-term legislation.

In other words: If Obama wants a stimulus, Republicans will give it to him tomorrow. It’s the president’s and the Democrats’ insistence on incorporating a huge and problematic policy agenda in this one bill that’s delaying action. Why then, Republicans can ask, is President Obama delaying a necessary, short-term, emergency growth package?

Listen to this man, Mitch McConnell.

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What was that our new president said about ending the politics of fear?

And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That’s President Obama, explaining why we absolutely must immediately spend $650 million for digital-TV coupons, $350 million for Agriculture Department computers, $87 million for a polar icebreaking ship, $55 million for a Historic Preservation Fund, and $150 million for “producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish,” among other urgencies.

The President apparently believes the way he is going to get this spendulous bill passed is to give another campaign speech, although I would argue that now is not the time for that:

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

I do agree with the President on one thing — that we shouldn’t “let Washington’s bad habits stand in the way of progress.”  Unfortunately, Americans are coming to realize that Washington’s bad habits are what Obama is offering as “hope” and “change.”

Now is not the time for bashing Republicans, Mr. President — they are not your problem.  Now is the time for fixing the mess of a bill Nancy Pelosi wrote for you.  To date, your leadership has been evident on one occasion – to strip out the absurd family planning “stimulus” spending Madame Speaker tried to sell on the Sunday shows.  If that’s the best you have to offer, your prediction of doom for the country may well come true.  But our doom will come because we may have a spineless sophist as our president for the next four years.

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One of the more troubling aspects of the Obama stimulus package is its subtle and flexible rhetoric of infinite excuses.

The President claims that his $825 billion stimulus bill will “create or save 2.5 million jobs.” Sounds great, right? Makes you think that we’re going to get this economy going again by adding jobs to the nation’s payroll.  But even if the economy loses 1 million jobs in the next 12 months, the President’s prediction can STILL be right!  All he has to say is that, without his plan, the nation would have lost 3.5 million jobs. He saved us, you see!  In fact, he may have saved your very job. How do you disprove that? Even the 1 million newly unemployed can’t be all that mad, because their jobs were inevitably going to be lost — it was their brother/mother/neighbor’s job that was saved by the stimulus.

How to fix things for the 1 million who lost their jobs in my scenario? Why, another stimulus, of course! The first one saved (or created) 2.5 million jobs — to get the 1 million guys re-employed, we need to spend hundreds of billions more…and if more people lose their jobs, cut another check, ad infinitum.

There is no way to evaluate success or failure here.  If the “shovel-ready projects” don’t take off like they should, it’s not the stimulus’ fault — it’s the lawsuits/bureaucrats/contractors that stand in the way.  How to fix it?  Authorize some more projects or increase the budget to fight through the obstacles.  If the “tax cuts” (for those who don’t pay taxes) fail to stimulate spending, then we need to cut more checks to allow spending to “trickle up” and help the economy.  If the clean energy spending doesn’t result in cleaner energy, we obviously didn’t invest enough.  When businesses don’t appropriately expand when they are “stimulated” by the bill, punish them with taxes

This rhetoric has been employed for decades when it comes to our public schools.  How many times have we heard education spending justified by saying that if a program helps one more child read, or attend college, or become a musician, then you MUST support the program.  If you aren’t willing to support the program, then you must hate that child.  Child haters, in case you haven’t noticed, don’t win elections.

The analogy works because, like teaching kids, saving and creating jobs in a recession is a goal for which many are willing to spend mindlessly.  If we spend money on green jobs, then people who make green things will have jobs, and they will make green things.  It doesn’t matter if we’re spending three times as much for a job as it actually earns the individual in real wages, or that the green things aren’t in demand by the public — he has a job!  If you oppose a green jobs program, you not only don’t want that guy to have the job, you also support pollution.  It’s a double-evil for those money-grubbing rich Republicans.  But then again, we all knew they didn’t want you to have a job, didn’t we?

For liberals, the principled answer to failed government programs is always more money for that program, or more programs.  Government programs themselves are never the problem — it’s always the selfish, hateful, partisan people who don’t care as much as the liberals do and won’t just hand over the money, already.  Republicans lost the ability to argue back that less spending and more freedom is often the solution when they radically increased the size of the federal budget (and, to some extent, the Code of Federal Regulations) during the past eight years.  It’s time for the party to make a clean break and return to first principles, as well.  Conservatives will never win a debate about how much should be spent — the debate has to be about whether spending is even a good idea in the first place.

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