As published in the February 17, 2009 issue of The Cauldron.
(Author's note: I apologize for my tardiness. I thought I had posted this with the notebook earlier in the week...)
Congress gave its stamp of approval to a $787 billion dollar stimulus bill late Friday night. The final version, which has been cut up and put back together in Washington for about a week, passed the House with no GOP votes and seven Democrat defectors, 246-183.
In the Senate, all Democrats gave it the nod, with three Republican senators crossing over to help push the bill through 60-38. The result left many Republicans fuming over what they are called very partisan legislation. I have some other concerns.
The Congress passed this bill on Friday after it had only been posted for a few hours—meaning most law-makers had two or three hours to read the one thousand seventy-one page bill, or they were voting on it without actually knowing what it contained. Take it from me; after reviewing the legislation, I am confident none of our congressman could have read it in less than a twenty-four hour period.
I understand the urgency of passing this legislation, but insisting on the final vote a mere two or three hours after the final draft was written is a bit unreasonable. The money we spend right now has to be allotted very carefully. You cannot claim accountability when the persons casting the votes do not fully understand the money being spent.
The more I look into the contents of this bill, the more it seems President Obama and the Democrats are passing a stimulus bill just to pass a stimulus bill. They set themselves up with a deadline of President’s Day, and they have done everything short of torture GOP congressmen in order to meet that date.
Included in the stimulus package—according to the Christian Science Monitor—is $308.3 billion in new spending, $267 billion in social services and $212 billion in tax breaks. Among the tax breaks is $116.2 billion for Obama’s “Make Work Pay” campaign, $20 billion in tax incentives for clean energy, $14 billion for higher education expenses and $4.7 billion earned income tax credits for families with three or more children.
The package allots $48 billion for infrastructure, including $27.5 billion for highways. Another $11 billion will modernize the nation’s electric grid. The plan also provides $86.6 billion in federal matching payments for Medicaid and $19 billion to modernize health technology. Among the $100 billion for education, $15 billion will raise the Pell Grant for low-income students by $500 to $4,860.
While its reassuring to see our government taking the initiative to restore our economy and improve our world, a lot was left out of this legislation. Deliberations earlier this week removed $3.5 billion for energy efficient federal buildings, $200 million for the EPA, $3.5 billion for higher education construction, $100 million for science and $300 million from federal fleet of hybrid vehicles. A lot of that was replaced with trickle down tax cuts, or simply removed all together.
Compromise is a necessary tool, but removing every pro-energy, pro-environment, pro-science/math/technology allotment was not the answer. If the Democrats were going to be stubborn and pass legislation with zero support from the Republicans they should have stuck to their guns and gotten the big things funded.
President Obama did not even get his headline item through in its original form. The “Making Work Pay” program will only give families $400 or $800 dollars instead of $500 and $1,000. If the President cannot stand up to the opposing party on his first big piece of legislation, we might have a problem on our hands.
Now, I am not an economist and I cannot claim to know what the future holds. I can tell you that legislation like this is easy to recognize as half-hearted crap. The Democrats passed a stimulus package because they felt like they had to and they would have passed it no matter what.
The American people voted the Democrats into a majority because they were sick of the old worn out policies that had been running us into the ground. However, four years of the Democrats passing weak legislation and allowing the Republicans too much leeway with cuts and changes will leave us with nothing when Obama’s term ends in four years. If the Democrats want to control Washington for the long term, they have to change their policies, and their politics, now.