NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Proponents of the stimulus bill tout it as THE vehicle to revive our economy while rebuilding the country’s infrastructure of roads and bridges. Unfortunately, it’s not apparent the proposed $825 billion spending spree will improve the thready pulse of financial exchange among Americans much less make a significant change in the condition of crumbling highways, spans and overpasses that are key to the free flow of goods and services essential to our economy.
The bottom line is nearly half of the $825 billion package is fashioned in the form of a tangle of tax breaks for corporations and individuals which will not have much if any of an immediate effect, and the rest largely is targeted toward government spending that will have little impact on the plight of small businesses, which employ about half of all private sector employees and create over half of the nonfarm gross domestic product in America.
Contrary to how the bill is being described by proponents, only around 3.5 percent (about $30 billion) of the spending proposal is actually tabbed for infrastructure repairs and improvements. The majority of the money is penned to “fund 150 federal programs — 32 brand-new programs, 19 programs which OMB [Office of Management and Budget] has labeled as ineffective or shown no results,” according to Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, as reported by the Business & Media Institute Jan. 23.
A quick review of the summary released by the House Committee on Appropriations shows the bill includes $6.7 billion to give federal agencies new or renovated buildings with increased energy efficiency and another $6.9 billion for state and local governments to do the same. NASA is due to get $400 million to boost climate change research and NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] will benefit to the tune of $600 million to buy satellites with sensors which enable climate modeling. On top of that, federal agencies will get $600 million for new vehicles that use alternative fuels.
I guess the Democratic Party pretty much believes in the same old “trickle-down economics” it bashed the Grand Old Party about. Already, billions have been used to bailout corporate giants like CitiGroup (which used tax dollars to give executives millions in year-end bonuses) and AIG (which it used to send top executives to resort spas as a reward); some banks used those tax dollars to pay dividends to stockholders. That bailout was described as essential to stop the mortgage meltdown, but it has done little to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Sadly, like the previous stimulus bill, I don’t think much of the $825 billion in new spending will find its way to the family-owned dry cleaners, the local construction crews, the garden nurseries, the car repair shops and all the other small businesses that my hometown depends on to support our families.
The new Congress’ hubris can be summed up in part by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s response to criticism about one extraordinarily out-of-place item in the so-called stimulus bill — an estimated $360 million designated for condoms, contraceptives and “family planning” services.
On ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” (communications director during Bill Clinton’s administration), Pelosi dismissed conservatives’ questions about the value of this item in the economic plan.
“The contraception [initiative] will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government,” she said. “No apologies,” she stressed when pressed by Stephanopoulos. “This is a, to stimulate the economy, is an economic recovery package and as we put it forth we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.”
She also defended the bill’s $600 million to assist with the conversion to digital television.
Just this week, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel and Caterpillar announced massive layoffs — 7,000, 8,000 and 20,000 jobs respectively. This news tracks with what I know is happening in hometown America. Daily I talk with friends who are small business owners and are agonizing over having to lay off loyal employees and who personally face losing everything they have built over a lifetime of hard work and honest business practices.
Yet, the government is offering no help — and perhaps has worsened what already is a devastating situation.
So far, Congress has managed to enrich executives who should be in jail for creating the mortgage meltdown and banking crisis that have crippled the global economy. And they propped up failed financial institutions, rewarding poor management and greed at the expense of other banking interests that were well-run and not caught up in the risky leveraging free-for-all that brought down such venerable investment houses as Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch.
Now as “part two” of their response, Congress plans to grow government.
In 1789, France was at once the richest nation in Europe and also the one most deeply in debt. Yet, instead of instituting spending controls, the ruling elite let spending spin out of control, especially in granting paybacks to loyalists. The financial crisis deepened until the government could not help its starving people — and the masses rebelled, igniting the French Revolution.
Historians disagree whether Marie Antoinette actually said “let them eat cake” when confronted about the lack of bread which was a staple for the common family. But what is certain is that her decided indifference to the plight of her nation caused her to lose her head, literally. The difference in the present situation is that Pelosi’s decided indifference to the crisis in our country shows she’s already lost hers.
Will Hall is executive editor of Baptist Press.