The Campaign Spot

A Stimulating Debate

As noted on the Corner, Rob Neppell and the guys at ReadThe Stimulus are putting Friday’s “hey, what’s in this bill” effort to shame.

A couple of readers–some left-of-center, some not–said they didn’t see anything particularly wrong with the items I spotlighted Friday; their arguments include “What is wrong with fixing roads on reservations? Is that any different than fixing any other road? A job is a job. The good thing about reservations is that this will provide jobs to rural workers.”

These projects may end up being worthwhile, they may not. Recall that my preferred option is a yearlong suspension of the payroll tax, which would make give almost every employee of every company the equivalent of a 7 percent raise (it tops out at incomes above $106,800). It would also make every employee 7 percent cheaper to their employer. Self-employed workers would get the equivalent of a 15 percent raise. The advantage of that plan is that it reaches every worker, and would make companies more eager to employ new workers by reducing the cost of hiring them.

Instead, we’re having the federal government allocate vast sums money for spending on particular projects. If I were an asphalt producer near an Indian reservation, then yes, this would be exactly the economic stimulus I would want to see from the federal government.

I’m not anti-infrastructure; adding another lane to the Beltway would make me a happy guy, along with a whole lot of Washington-area commuters. But among the budget requests from the state of Maryland was $15 million for guard rails and traffic signals. I drive through Maryland pretty often; the guard rails look pretty good (although I haven’t tried to ram through them) and I haven’t seen any traffic signals that need replacing. Again, if I were one of the companies that manufacture guard rails and traffic signals, I’d find the current proposal extremely stimulating; for everybody else, it’s kinda “meh” as an economic stimulus.


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