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‘I Won,’ He Explained
On the stimulus, when Obama says “I won,” he’s out of better arguments.
By Rich Lowry
Barack Obama, a reputed master of the persuasive art, has settled on his central argument for the stimulus bill: I won.
That Obama is reduced to this crude appeal is a symptom of the intellectual collapse of the case for his stimulus bill, a congressional spendfest untethered from its stated goal of providing a rapid “jolt” to the economy.
As far as political arguments go, “I won” has its power—provided it’s made on behalf of an agenda ratified by the American electorate. But Obama didn’t campaign on a sprawling, nearly $1 trillion new spending plan. If he had pledged in October to double federal domestic discretionary spending in a matter of weeks—including increasing the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts by a third, spending hundreds of millions more on federal buildings and throwing tens of billions on every traditional liberal priority from job training to Pell Grants—he’d have been hard-pressed to win at all.
The president should read the transcript of the third presidential debate. He claimed his program represented “a net spending cut.” He called himself “a strong proponent of pay-as-you-go. Every dollar that I’ve proposed, I’ve proposed an additional cut so that it matches.” He added, “We need to eliminate a whole host of programs that don’t work.”
Now, circumstances change, and no president can adhere to every jot and tittle from his campaign, but the “I won” argument only works if the campaign program matches the governing program. Obama himself seems confused on what exactly “I won” means.
In a meeting with congressional Republicans, he brandished “I won” as a defense of his version of tax relief. But he later used “I won” to push back against an excessive reliance on tax cuts, claiming that it had been repudiated during the campaign even though he talked every day on the trail of cutting taxes for “95 percent of working people” and never once mentioned a commitment to extreme deficit spending.
Obama has to make a case for the stimulus bill on the merits, a surpassingly difficult forensic task. In a Washington Post op-ed, Obama called for “swift, bold, and wise” action, but it’s possible to have at most two of those things at once. The current legislation is swift and bold—indeed, shameless—but not remotely wise.
The bill came out of the House with a price tag of $819 billion. It would spend more in 2011 alone than in this year, and more in 2012 and beyond than in this year. Why far-off spending priorities have to be set in a rush in the first two weeks of February 2009 is something no one can explain—except that, with all restraints off, congressional Democrats want to toss bulging sacks of cash out the door.
Obama writes that the bill “is more than a prescription for short-term spending—it’s a strategy for America’s long-term growth and opportunity.” Fine. A long-term strategy deserves long-term deliberation, the committee hearings and other processes meant to exercise a check on the heedlessness of hasty legislating in a panic.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill will have a stimulative effect in the short term but a negative one in the long term, although it stipulates that “large fiscal stimulus is rarely attempted” and its effects “are very uncertain.” The stimulus bill is basically a $1 trillion bet on an utterly unproven theory—that scattershot government spending is a magic elixir for an economy in the grips of a financial crisis.
When Barack Obama ran last year, he didn’t say he’d engage in faith-based economic policy on a grand scale. He didn’t say he’d toss aside the normal processes of governing. He didn’t say he’d quickly act to add waste to the federal budget. And he didn’t say he’d try to brush away criticism with the mere assertion of his victory. On the stimulus, when Obama says “I won,” he’s out of better arguments.
The Liberal Coalition at Work
Greenpeace is backing the stimulus because it will reduce emissions. Except it won't. As Roger Pielke, Jr. explains, it will actually increase emissions, but reduce them from a hypothetical case where we didn't spend massive amounts of money on alternative energy capacity. If you're going to stimulate the economy, you're going to need energy, and if you're going to do it cost-effectively, that means fossil-fuel energy. If Greenpeace were serious about actually reducing emissions, they'd hail the recession and oppose all the stimulus except for the green energy/transportation programs, but it is now clear they are not and are just carrying water for their liberal allies.
Meanwhile, it looks like the Breakthrough Institute (unlike Camilla Cavendish in the UK Times) has realized the Administration's alternative energy promises are just smoke and mirrors. I could have told them that.
Mark-to-Market Suspension Monday?
The Dow is heading up, and it's not because Senatorial opposition to the stimulus is weakening. It started with the news yesterday that the Administration is on the verge of getting one huge thing right and will announce a suspension of certain mark-to-market rules on Monday. This will instantly reduce the risk for financial firms with bad assets on their books from future paper losses that could adversely affect their regulatory solvency. As we at CEI have been saying from Day One of the financial mess, there is no easier relief measure around. To its very great credit, the Obama administration appears to have realized this. Obama and Geithner actually deserve applause for this.
However, it seems likely that the significant Dow rally that will probably result will be spun otherwise, as market support for the stimulus. Ironically, the best way to stop them getting away with this spin may well be to praise them extravagantly for something they've done right.
The reaction of the intellectual elite to Sarah Palin was far more provincial than Palin herself ever has been, and those who reacted so viscerally against her evinced little or no appreciation for an essential premise of democracy: that practical wisdom matters at least as much as formal education, and that leadership can emerge from utterly unexpected places. The presumption that the only road to power passes through the Ivy League and its tributaries is neither democratic nor sensible, and is, moreover, a sharp and wrongheaded break from the American tradition of citizen governance.As Commentary goes on to say, it is the intellectual elite who believe they are helping the "little guy" while having no inclination to allow those little people access to the "levers of power".
The Senate Stimulus bill currently being considered contains about $104 billion in new government funding for construction projects with the goal of creating jobs for millions of unemployed Americans. Unlike the House version, there is no provision in the bill to bar illegal immigrants from getting these taxpayer-funded jobs. This could result in several hundred thousand illegal immigrants receiving jobs.This so-called stimulus bill should be fought tooth and nail by all those who want Americans to get jobs.
* The current version of the Senate Stimulus bill (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) contains $104 billion in construction spending, including highways, schools, and public housing.
* Government estimates suggest this spending should create about 2 million new construction jobs.
* Consistent with other research, the Center Immigration Studies has previously estimated that 15 percent of construction workers are illegal immigrants.
* This means that about 300,000 of the construction jobs created by the Senate stimulus could go to illegal aliens (15 percent of 2 million).
For some time many of us have wondered just who is Jack Schitt? We find ourselves at a loss when someone says, 'You don't know Jack Schitt!'Yup, that's from the very nice lady who taught me all I know about God.
Well, thanks to my genealogy efforts, you can now respond in an intellectual way.
Jack Schitt is the only son of Awe Schitt. Awe Schitt, the fertilizer magnate, married O. Schitt, the owner of Needeep N. Schitt, Inc. They had one son, Jack.
In turn, Jack Schitt married Noe Schitt. The deeply religious couple produced six children: Holie Schitt, Giva Schitt, Fulla Schitt, Bull Schitt, and the twins Deep Schitt and Dip Schitt.
Against her parents' objections, Deep Schitt married Dumb Schitt, a high school dropout. After being married 15 years, Jack and Noe Schitt divorced.
Noe Schitt later married Ted Sherlock, and because her kids were living with them, she wanted to keep her previous name.
She was then known as Noe Schitt Sherlock.
Meanwhile, Dip Schitt married Loda Schitt, and they produced a son with a rather nervous disposition named Chicken Schitt.
Two of the other six children, Fulla Schitt and Giva Schitt, were inseparable throughout childhood and subsequently married the Happens brothers in a dual ceremony. The wedding announcement in the newspaper announced the Schitt-Happens nuptials. The Schitt-Happens children were Dawg, Byrd, and Horse.
Bull Schitt, the prodigal son, left home to tour the world. He recently returned from Italy with his new Italian bride, Pisa Schitt.
Now when someone says, 'You don't know Jack Schitt,' you can correct them.
Crock O. Schitt
Regulate First, Think Later . . . or Never
Quin Hilyer has a good column in the Examiner today on the subject of the ludicrously over-reaching Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. This little-noticed piece of legislation could have significant effects on a wide variety of small businesses:Antiques dealers, toymakers, electronics retailers, even book manufacturers and diaper makers all are agitated, and in many cases confused, about the new law that is scheduled to take effect Feb. 10. As usual, only the plaintiffs’ attorneys are rubbing their hands in glee.
Last August, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which mandates that all products for children ages 12 and under be tested for lead and phthalates (a chemical in many plastics), and that no such products be sold with lead contents higher than 600 parts per million. (Ingested lead, of course, can cause serious health problems, including learning disabilities in children.)
The sales ban applies retroactively, too: Even if the items in question were made 100 years ago, The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has advised that a second-hand store could be subject to lawsuits or even “criminal penalties” for selling them.
Even antique lead soldiers sold as collectibles for display, rather than as play toys, could conceivably trigger punishment.
The CPSC has reacted to criticism by announcing a stay in testing requirements for a year, but Quin explains why that actually offers no relief.
I wrote about this a while back on OpenMarket (as did Hans Bader here), while Walter Olson has been all over the subject on Overlawyered. I can't think of a more accessible example of the unintended consequences of regulation.
Brocton Oglesby, director of emergency management in Hopkins County, said he has seen virtually no contribution from FEMA in the county, where more than half of the 27,000 homes remained without electricity.The article just goes on and on.
"They need to be here — at least a presence, a liaison to work with us, to start feeding information and gearing up for the next stage," Oglesby said. "That's where they're going to be needed the most."
The main lesson we have learned from the New Deal is that wholesale government intervention can -- and does -- deliver the most unintended of consequences. This was true in the 1930s, when artificially high wages and prices kept us depressed for more than a decade, it was true in the 1970s when price controls were used to combat inflation but just produced shortages. It is true today, when poorly designed regulation produced a banking system that took on too much risk.
The Financial Times used to be the cleverest newspaper in Britain. Then it went global and its quality dropped significantly. There's a great example in today's editorials, where the pink paper argues that, because there is so little spending in the borrow-and-spend bill that would actually, you know, stimulate, it would be a crime for Republicans to delay it.
Meanwhile, over at Bloomberg, Kevin Hassett spells out exactly how much the Act will cost taxpayers when the bill becomes due. He has a nice analogy setting out what the government would force you to buy, depending on your tax bracket, with the proviso that the government would then force you to give it away.
So what should we do? There's an inkling in the Washington Times today, from, of all people, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, and Gray Davis. They point out that "shovel-ready" projects are just maintenance work, because infrastructure projects are bogged down in environmental regulations. They don't quite get to the conclusion, so let me say it for them: if you want to build infrastructure sharpish, you're going to have to set aside those environmental regulations by law. Any "stimulus" bill that doesn't include relief from the provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act, for instance, isn't going to get any infrastructure project going any time soon.
So if you want to stimulate, you're going to have to liberate. Similar arguments can be made as regards Davis-Bacon and 13C. There are a bunch of other such ideas, which will also get the economy moving by getting government out of the way. For example, finally suspending mark-to-market accounting properly, which will be a huge boon to the banks. Or getting rid of the burdens of SarbOx and other ridiculous and ineffectual regulations on small businesses. Antitrust reform would help, too. And you could even think about finally getting rid of the Corporate Income Tax, a hold-over from the days when income tax itself was unconstitutional, and which, at least before the 2005 reforms, probably cost more to collect than it raised in income.
If you want hope and change, rather than the same old pork barrel policies, that's the way to go: liberate to stimulate (it'll catch on).
It comes as an answer to the One Laptop per Child project (OLPC) led by Nicholas Negraponte, the American scientist, which set out to produce a computer for $100. The US venture ran into problems when large companies including Intel, the biggest chip manufacturer, refused to co-operate.Hopefully, Intel will regret it's intransigence and change their mind because this could be an amazing step forward for the human race.