View Full Version : Stimulus? Hardly...

07-21-2009, 12:06 PM

An unstimulating stimulus package By Robert J. Samuelson
Washington Post

Published on Tuesday, Jul 21, 2009

WASHINGTON: It's not surprising that the much-ballyhooed ''economic stimulus'' hasn't done much stimulating. President Obama and his aides argue that it's too early to expect startling results. They have a point. A $14 trillion economy won't revive in a nanosecond. But the defects of the $787 billion package go deeper and won't be cured by time. The program crafted by Obama and the Democratic Congress wasn't engineered to maximize its economic impact. It was mostly a political exercise, designed to claim credit for any recovery, shower benefits on favored constituencies and signal support for fashionable causes.

As a result, much of the stimulus' potential benefit has been squandered. Spending increases and tax cuts are sprinkled in too many places and, all too often, are too delayed to do much good now. Nor do they concentrate on reviving the economy's most depressed sectors: state and local governments; the housing and auto industries. None of this means the stimulus won't help or precludes a recovery, but the help will be weaker than necessary.

How much is hard to determine. By year-end 2010, the package will result in 2.5 million jobs, predicts Mark Zandi of Moody's Economy.com. But as Zandi notes, all estimates are crude. They involve comparing economic simulations with and without the provisions of the stimulus. The economic models must make assumptions about how fast consumers spend tax cuts, how quickly construction projects begin and much more.

Depending on the assumptions, the results vary. When the Congressional Budget Office made job estimates, it presented a range of 1.2 million to 3.6 million by year-end 2010. Whatever the actual figures, they won't soon mean an increase in overall employment. They will merely limit job losses. Since late 2007, those have totaled 6.5 million, and there are probably more to come.

On humanitarian grounds, hardly anyone should object to parts of the stimulus package: longer and (slightly) higher unemployment benefits; subsidies for job losers to extend their health insurance; expanded food stamps. Obama was politically obligated to enact a campaign proposal providing tax cuts to most workers up to $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples. But beyond these basics, the stimulus plan became an orgy of politically appealing spending increases and tax breaks.

More than 50 million retirees and veterans got $250 checks (cost: $14 billion). Businesses received liberalized depreciation allowances ($5 billion). Health-care information technology was promoted ($19 billion). High-speed rail was encouraged ($8 billion). Whatever the virtues of these programs, the effects are diluted and delayed. The CBO estimated that nearly 30 percent of the economic effects would occur after 2010. Ignored was any concerted effort to improve consumer and business confidence by resuscitating the most distressed economic sectors.

Vehicle sales are running 35 percent behind year-earlier levels; frightened consumers recoil from big-ticket purchases. Falling house prices deter home buying. Why buy today if the price will be lower tomorrow? States suffer from steep drops in tax revenue and face legal requirements to balance their budgets. This means raising taxes or cutting spending precisely the wrong steps in a severe slump. Yet the stimulus package barely addressed these problems.

To promote car sales and home buying, Congress could have provided temporary but generous tax breaks. It didn't. The housing tax credit applied to a fraction of first-time buyers; the car tax break permitted federal tax deductions for state sales and excise taxes on vehicle purchases. The effects are trivial. The recently signed ''cash for clunkers'' tax credit is similarly stunted; Macroeconomic Advisers estimates it might advance a mere 130,000 vehicle sales.

States fared better. They received $135 billion in largely unfettered funds. But even with this money, economists at Goldman Sachs estimate that states face up to a $100 billion budget gap in the next year. Already, 28 states have increased taxes and 40 have reduced spending, reports the Office of Management and Budget.

There are growing demands for another Obama ''stimulus'' on the grounds that the first was too small. Wrong. The problem with the first stimulus was more its composition than its size. With budget deficits for 2009 and 2010 estimated by the CBO at $1.8 trillion and $1.4 trillion (respectively, 13 and 9.9 percent of gross domestic product), it's hard to argue they're too tiny. Obama and congressional Democrats sacrificed real economic stimulus to promote parochial political interests. Any new ''stimulus'' should be financed by culling some of the old.
Here, as elsewhere, there's a gap between Obama's high-minded rhetoric and his performance. In February, Obama denounced ''politics as usual'' in constructing the stimulus. But that's what we got, and Obama likes the result. Interviewed recently by ABC's Jake Tapper, he was asked whether he would change anything. Obama seemed to invoke a doctrine of presidential infallibility. ''There's nothing that we would have done differently,'' he said.

Samuelson is a Washington Post columnist.

07-21-2009, 11:49 PM

Dino 6 Rings
07-31-2009, 10:36 AM
And where is the money going exactly?

Stimulus…or smut-ulus?
By Michelle Malkin • July 30, 2009 02:07 PM

$50,000 to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia. The Center’s website is spotlighting “the Emperor’s New Clothes” described as an “… interactive adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes” in which the “tailors are crafty foxes, the prime minister is a near-sighted camel, the councilor is a befuddled old walrus, and the Emperor is a pig” that is “big and pink and loves to dress up in fancy clothes.”

$25,000 to the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio Texas.

$25,000 to CounterPulse in San Francisco, California that just held this past Saturday (July 25th) “Perverts Put Out” which urges one to “Join your fellow pervs for some explicit, twisted fun!”. The picture accompanying the announcement is a nude man onstage at a microphone.

$25,000 to the Kala Institute in Berkeley, California. The Institute describes its mission as being “… to help artists sustain their creative efforts over time through its Artist-in- Residence and Fellowship Programs, and to increase appreciation of this work through exhibitions, public programming and educational efforts.” Its website includes a page describing current exhibits with a photo of a man in a jock strap and high-tops dunking a basketball and someone sticking his/her ear through a hole cut in a piece of cardboard.

$50,000 to the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance in Old Town, Maine which promotes “…authentic handwoven baskets of ash and sweetgrass may be purchased directly from Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance basketmakers at MIBA events.”

$25,000 to the “Marsh, a breeding ground for new performance” in San Francisco, California. The first two performances listed under the Marshes “playing now” calendar are: “East 14th: Tales of a reluctant Player” and “Lettuce Town Lies.” East 14th is described with the blurb: “Back in 1970’s Oakland, his stepfather forced him to be a straight A, God-fearing church boy - but he wanted to be just like his dear old Dad. Too bad he didn’t know dear old Dad was a pimp.” The blurb for “Lettucetown Lies” states: “He’s Gay. He’s Asian. He’s coming of age in Lettucetown, aka Salinas. If that’s not bad enough, he’s got a crush on a hick. If that’s not bad enough, his friends think fun is blowing up a field of lettuce. If that’s not bad enough, he has to sneak to the highschool bathroom to buy drugs and Donna Summer records. Adolescence! It’s fun, it’s lies. In Lettucetown.”

$50,000 to the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania whose website is promoting “Tabla Ecstasy” that entices: “[B]e carried away to a state of intense joy. Follow intricate drumming as it grows in intensity and be taken away to a different plane of experience.”

$25,000 to Center for Women & Their Work in Austin, Texas whose website is promoting “The Medicine Show” that is described as: In this interactive, multisensory sculptural installation, Wetzel transforms the gallery into two dreamlike realms, featuring an ambient desertscape giving way to a shrouded spiral chamber. Outside the chamber, the desert scene seems haunted by the sounds of drumming. Inside the chamber, visitors cross into a separate, black-lit world to experience a geodesic drum ritual performed by Wetzel and masked attendants. Ceremony, sand, cloth, mandalas, enshrined objects, lights, smells and sound all converge in The Medicine Show to forge a sensual, tactile interactive experience that places viewers in a heightened state as they cross the threshold between two mystically charged realms.

$25,000 to the San Francisco Cinematheque in San Francisco, California. The website’s calendar states that next season will be announced in the weeks ahead but the News tab describes recent Co-presentations such as a documentary on “the legendary underground filmmakers Mike & George Kuchar” and thier film “Thundercrack” of which a reviewer raves: “Witness if you dare, the world’s only underground kinky art porno horror film, complete with four men, three women and a gorilla. Ecstasy so great that all heaven and hell becomes just one big old Shangri-La!” First mention on the website’s Archives tab is Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film which includes Peyote Queen. Peyote Queen is billed as: “A classic of the psychedelic tendency … An attempt to visually render the wealth of kaleidoscope visions of peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus ritually used by the Indians of New Mexico” … an “… exploration in the colour of ritual, in the colour of thought, a journey in the depths of sensorial disorder, of the inner vision, where mysteries are represented in the theatre of the soul.”

$25,000 to Jess Curtis/Gravity, Inc. in San Francisco, California. One of their most recent works is the Symmetry Project where nude couples are mounted on each other in various poses. Note in the first pictures nude children are present with nude adults.

$25, 000 to Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts in Buffalo, New York that is currently promoting the “Many Moons” photo collection.

$50,000 to Educational Video Center in NY City which in its Mission Statement states “EVC’s teaching methodology brings together the powerful traditions of student-centered progressive education and independent community documentary.” It has made video documentaries such as “Disorderly Conduct: Are the Police Killing Us?”

$50,000 to “California Lawyers for the Arts, Inc.” which appears to be nothing more than a liberal advocacy group.

$25,000 to Borderlands Theater Teatro Fronterizo, Inc. in Tucson, Arizona is delinquent in paying federal taxes (see here, last item at the bottom of the page). Recently did “School of the Americas” about Che Guevara and has upcoming “WHAT’S UNDER THAT SKIRT? A BORDERLINE LOOK AT GENDER” and “SHE WAS MY BROTHER”.

$50,000 to Frameline in San Francisco, California which is described in its Mission Statement as “Frameline’s mission is to strengthen the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and further its visibility by supporting and promoting a broad array of cultural representations and artistic expression in film, video and other media arts.” In January they presented “Desi’s Looking for a New Girl” that is about “J.T., a young Latina dyke, has three passions: her skateboard, comedienne Marga Gomez, and her friend Desi (not necessarily in that order). When Desi’s girlfriend dumps her for a younger woman, she journeys down breakup road with the requisite mourning and attempts at dating and recovery. Desi’s family and friends help and interfere every step of the way, setting her up on an array of blind disasters…dates… with the “perfect new girl.”

$25,000 to Epic Theatre Center, Inc. in NY City that appears to be nothing more than a liberal advocacy machine posing as a production company.

$50,000 to National Federation of Community Broadcasters, Inc. in Oakland, California which is a liberal advocacy group.


07-31-2009, 10:47 AM
Taken individually, there's not much money there. But taken as a whole, and placed in context, spending money on this stuff begs the question: How is ANY of this supposed to help fix the economy?

Dino 6 Rings
07-31-2009, 11:18 AM
Taken individually, there's not much money there. But taken as a whole, and placed in context, spending money on this stuff begs the question: How is ANY of this supposed to help fix the economy?

Exactly. And when you really look at it, $25,000 isn't a lot in the Grand scheme of things when you'r talking 750 Billion, unless of coarse, you are the person GETTING the $25,000. And who exactly is Getting this money? Not people that are going to be doing a lot of hiring that's for sure.