Lobbyists in Washington are in a feeding frenzy, staring at their favorite-of-all-animals, a “must-pass” bill. Otherwise known as the “stimulus” bill, it has become a vehicle for a decade’s worth of policy changes, new programs, spending increases, and special-interest provisions. But its passage is not inevitable, as many congressional Democrats would have us believe. Fortunately, meaningful opposition is coming together. This bill can be defeated.
Based on its record of the last eight years, you’d think the Republican party would have jumped on this stimulus train, or at least gotten out of the way. Instead, all House Republicans, along with eleven House Democrats, held strong and voted against the bill. They put the country’s fiscal health before the supposed political benefits of bringing home the bacon. Despite the enormity of the present financial crisis, they embraced the first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.
Many opponents of the stimulus bill also understand that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama are using the cover of economic hardship to pursue a permanent increase in the size and scope of government. This is by far the biggest debt package in the country’s history, and every dollar will have to be paid back with interest.
How can any reasonable person believe that our country needs another pile of consumption spending and debt that will have to be repaid out of future income? The credit crisis was caused, in large part, by far too much borrowing to finance consumption expenditures at the household, corporate, and government levels. More borrow-and-spend isn’t change, it’s more of the same.
And truth be told, there’s barely any stimulus in this bill. Only about 3.5 percent of the expenditures in the current package would actually go to highways and bridges, the real physical infrastructure of our country. The rest would be spent on non-stimulus items such as global-warming computer modeling (I thought the debate was over), digital-TV coupons, the National Endowment for the Arts, increased Amtrak subsidies, and new housing slush funds that could subsidize ACORN’s illicit political activities.
Conservatives who stand against this bill need to keep arguing the economic lessons of the 1930s–that rather than create wealth, government spending can destroy it, and that the jobs government spending does create are far fewer than the unseen jobs it destroys. But conservatives also need to be mindful of the political lessons of the 1930s: Democrats today are poised with this bill to construct a national political-patronage machine designed first and foremost to assure their election and re-election, which is the real legacy of the New Deal.
By way of this bill, huge new pots of federal taxpayer dollars would be used to grease the wheels of local special-interest politics. Thousands of projects of questionable value would be funded–projects that were unaffordable during the best economic times and are even less affordable now. Yet much of the professional political class in Washington seems set to go along with this no-stimulus approach, if only because a dramatic expansion in government power means a dramatic expansion in their power (at our expense).
Fortunately, the facts about the bill are coming out–not in a trickle, but in a flood. Republicans and fiscally responsible Democrats in the House showed that it is possible to unify against this package, although their numbers are still too few to carry the day. Meanwhile, MoveOn.org has sprung into action, going on the airwaves to tell its liberal followers that the bill is far from a sure thing. But if proponents of fiscal sanity in the Senate can withstand this offensive and repeat the results of the House, this no-stimulus train will never get out of the station.
– Phil Kerpen is director of policy for Americans for Prosperity, which is leading the grassroots fight against the stimulus bill at www.NoStimulus.com.