Friday, February 6, 2009


I've been scrupulously avoiding any discussion of the stimulus bill, but I can no longer contain myself.

Today, in response to still more bad (but completely expected) employment numbers, Obama said:
I am sure that at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, members of the Senate are reading these same numbers this morning. I hope they share my sense of urgency and draw the same, unmistakable conclusion: The situation could not be more serious. These numbers demand action. It is inexcusable and irresponsible to get bogged down in distraction and delay while millions of Americans are being put out of work. It is time for Congress to act.
This would be fine if the bill weren't a giant, steaming, Christmas-tree-shaped dog turd. Obama can have a stimulus bill any time he wants, just by including only infrastructure, temporary unemployment relief, and tax cuts. But he apparently doesn't want that. He wants to use the crisis as an opportunity to placate every constituency he owes from the campaign.

This is, of course, nothing new, nor is it particularly surprising. It certainly isn't a new kind of politics, however.

I performed a little exercise on the CBO analysis of the stimulus bill (PDF): I took all the expenditures the listed from the various titles of the bill and marked which ones looked stimulative to me and which ones looked like ornaments on the Christmas tree. My criteria where as follows: For something to be judged "stimulative" it had to either be one of the following:
  1. A genuine infrastructure improvement (roads, bridges, public buildings, electrical grid, or broadband infrastructure).
  2. A tax cut.
  3. Something that sounded reasonable for helping out the unemployed.
Here's what I came up with:

In other words, there's about $250 billion that doesn't look very stimulative to me. A quarter of a trillion dollars.

Let's assume that I've been overly harsh and $100B of that actually is stimulative. That means that we can lop of $150 billion without trying very hard.

I don't care if we add more tax cuts or not. I'll grudgingly accept that we need a whopping big infrastructure spend (even though the evidence for that seems to be somewhat paltry, and this multiplier effect has obvious logical problems). But it's simply not gonna fly for Obama to try and stampede us into wasting hundreds of billions of dollars.

He should be ashamed of himself.

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