Economics

Remember Obama's Pledge Not to Let Earmarks Get Into His Massive Stimulus Package?

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As you may recall, he was quite emphatic about how his administration would insist on doing things differently:

We are going to ban all earmarks—the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review," he explained. "We will create an economic recovery oversight board made up of key administration officials and independent advisors to identify problems early and make sure we are doing all we can to solve it."

Well, forget about it. In these tough times, the last thing you want to do is insist on principles. (And let's leave aside for the moment the question of whether the stimulus package is itself simply a way of pushing massive earmarked spending).

Here he is talking to ABC News:

In an interview taped for ABC News on Saturday, Obama said he wants targeted tax cuts and conceded it will be difficult to enforce his pledge to ban lawmakers from including unessential "earmarked" spending projects for their districts.

"In a package of this magnitude, will there end up being certain projects that potentially don't meet that criteria of helping on health care, energy or education? Certainly," he said.

But Obama said inaction carries too great a risk.

"We can't afford three, four, five, six more months where we're losing half a million jobs per month," Obama said. "And the estimates are that if we don't do anything, we could see million jobs lost this year."

Oh, and don't get too attached to those proposed tax cuts, which "may be more than some Senate Democrats are willing to allow as members on Capitol Hill indicated they may want less in tax cuts than the president-elect."

More here.

Reason Foundation analysts Sam Staley and Adrian Moore on why transporation spending always has more pork in it than a barbecue; Anthony Randazzo on why stimulus spending typically falls short of achieving its goals.

As the nation braces for a $775 billion stimulus package (and the second half to the TARP money being accessed), recall how earmarks get made by watching this Reason.tv documentary featuring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.):

NEXT: Pondering the Porn Industry Bailout

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  1. Obama can’t raise taxes on those earning less than 250k a year! That would destroy the credibility of Factcheck.org and raise the tax burden of Joe The Plumber.

  2. Obama’s “Massive Stimulus Package”

    Heh heh. Is that why Norah O’Donnell swoons?

  3. Oh my god, this is SO surprising! I just never would have thought this.

  4. The last thing I want marking my ear is Obama’s package, no matter how massive the media and his fan girls dream about it being.

  5. Looks like Reason does not see the beauty and elegance of streamlining government.

  6. Hey, guys, just wanted to let you know that half the time I just don’t feel like myself. Anyone for a cutting session?

  7. It appears that my impersonator got up early today.

  8. Heh heh. Snuggie FTW.

  9. Wait! You mean the government will continue to spend freely, perhaps moreso than before? Earmarks will become bigger, badder, and better? My inner socialist is squealing with delight!

    On the other hand, my inner libertarian may have a stroke in the near future, or have to go into a deep slumber. Otherwise I may not survive the next era of government expansion.

  10. Sadly, I have a feeling that Obama will be no different than any other president before him (Dictator in Bushes case), full of empty promises and a LOT of hot air!

    JT
    http://www.anonymity.at.tc

  11. phalkor,

    Are you finally seeing the light of Libertarian Socialism?

  12. George W Peron’s last press conference. I’m hoping he pulls a pistol out of his belt and blows his brains all over the ceiling, but I’m not holding my breath.

  13. Cognitive dissonance is my friend in these trying times.

  14. What is funny is the people who think, including perhaps Obama himself, that he will run the government. Reid and Pelosi and their various cabals are going to be running the government. They put Obama in there because he is black, could get elected and good make the boobs feel good about hope and change. They didn’t put him in there to come up with any bright ideas about cutting taxes or running a centrist government. Until Obama vetoes a bill and stands up to them, Congress is going to tell him to sit down and shut the fuck up and go kiss some babys or talk about hope and change.

  15. I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

  16. John,

    Are you telling us that the plot for “Rock Star” is coming true, but Mark Wahlberg is being played by Obama and the band is really the government?

    This is a Capitalist Plot Twist that caught me napping.

  17. “We can’t afford three, four, five, six more months where we’re losing half a million jobs per month,” Obama said. “And the estimates are that if we don’t do anything, we could see million jobs lost this year.”

    Wait – so we can’t afford to lose 500,000 jobs per month for up to 6 months, which apparently equals up to 1,000,000 jobs? Good math there, buddy.

  18. Also, I’ll bet you my proposed tax cut (that may be scaled down or eliminated by congress and instead given to a project to convert Dayton, Ohio’s busses to hybrid busses) that even if this stimulus package is passed we’ll see significant job losses in the range of what they claim will happen if we do nothing.

  19. There is an article in my local paper today about a bridge/road project that was expected to be many years out that may now be financed sooner by this horseshit. I think I’m going to be sick.

  20. Reinmoose, the great thing about the economy hemorrhaging jobs after they pass this boondoggle is that they still get to say “think of what would have happened if we hadn’t passed it!”

  21. There are thousands of local politicians, all over the country, clamoring for stimulus money to buy votes with.

    Bullshit- it’s always “shovel-ready”.

  22. Hugh:

    A) “It’s not working, we need to do more!”
    B) “It’s working! We need to do more!”

    *sigh*

  23. Reinmoose, the great thing about the economy hemorrhaging jobs after they pass this boondoggle is that they still get to say “think of what would have happened if we hadn’t passed it!”

    Hugh –
    Psh – please. Like when was the last time that happened?

  24. There is an article in my local paper today about a bridge/road project that was expected to be many years out that may now be financed sooner by this horseshit.

    I feel you. Mayor Coleman (Columbus, Ohio) is talking about a “light rail” project (which is really just a fancy term for a street car that will run up and down High Street). It is the stupidest thing I have heard of in a long time.

  25. George is developing a little bit of a speed wobble.

    When in doubt, fall back on your righteous indignation, and bad-mouth the Europeans. Fuckin’ hippies!

  26. Fwiw, Pelosi has also promised no earmarks:
    http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/pelosi-vows-to-keep-stimulus-free-of-earmarks-2009-01-11.html

    To be sure, a promise pretty easy to keep, since from one point of view, the entire stimulus package will essentially serve the same purpose as 535 earmarks.

  27. When in doubt, steal. Watch these guys when they talk about the economy. They have no idea what to do so they go back to their instincts which is always to rob the tax payer.

  28. Why does Bush sound more lucid now than he ever did before? Good golly, I can’t really hate the schmuck now can I?

  29. And I still think that Reason’s (and Jeff Flakes and Glenn Reynold’s) ‘war on earmarks’ is misguided at best, and distracting at worst. Take the headline figure of 17 billion dollars in the video. The Pentagon runs through that amount in 10 days. The entire federal govt runs through that amount in 2 days. It represents less than 4% of last fiscal year’s budget deficit and 2% of the likely budget for next years. Earmarks may be corrupting, but these days, they’re not much worse than the standard contracting process, which is equally broken. There are bigger fish to fry.

  30. phalkor,

    Because he is on his way back to the failed Capitalist system that his family has been trying to run the world with for a century.

    He sees it all failing and he is trying to het into the good graces of progressive thinkers.

  31. The problem with earmarks is that they grease the skids for all that other spending.

  32. He’s gotta give up the tax cut thing. I loathe taxation more than… nearly everybody (although I’m sure there are a couple libertarians more uber than me who hate it even more). But it seems apparent to me that fiscal sanity is imperative, the lack thereof WILL eventually lead to a massive dollar crash that would be a real problem, not like this current little kerfluffle that everybody’s so worked up about. If we could massively cut government, that’d be cool with me, but that ain’t gonna happen. Barring that, we gotta tax the people. Probably a lot more than we do now. It sucks, but it’s reality.

    P.S. Not to say that Obama will bring fiscal sanity, but tax cuts just throw gasoline on the fire.

  33. Guys, it AppearsThat my SecretIdentity may have BeenCompromised.

  34. My impostern is slowing down.

    Billy!, we need to start with a 100% tax on everybody who makes more than the president and then we can expand it to those who do not work for the government.

  35. Just so long as I get my $5 million earmark for nails and gunpowder.

  36. Who are you fake LurkerBold? Where were you exposed?

  37. Bill Ayres was and is a freedom fighter for the workers and should not be mocked here or any place else.

  38. Hey, let’s start a pool on where the Obama deficit peaks!

    I call dibs on $4T.

  39. I am not one of the gloom-and doom types. I am normally a pretty upbeat guy, but this is straining my credulity. They are spending ca. $1000 of every man, woman, and child’s future earnings and they expect me to believe that they are going to make it up in the future?

    I don’t really believe that the elected government is evil, but what a confederacy of dunces. There has to come a time when even the most insulated and dense person realizes that the current methods of governance and commerce are not sustainable and cannot be artificially propped up much longer. F*#+ing pigs at the trough.

    Way to start my week with anger, Reason. The only way I could get more pissed is with another “isolated incident.”

  40. Also, if Bill Ayers does kill you, your probably deserve it. Gotta break some windows to have progress.

  41. Who are you fake LurkerBold?

  42. The post at 10:28 was not me.

  43. “P.S. Not to say that Obama will bring fiscal sanity, but tax cuts just throw gasoline on the fire.”

    Raising taxes just kills the economy. Fine, raise taxes by letting the Bush tax cuts expire and watch the economy and federal revenues continue to decline. The way to do this is spend money in ways that immediately put money in people’s pockets to spend rather than infrastructure boondoggles that take years to effect anything and just get Unions and chronies rich and then cut taxes in ways that encourage investment and job creation.

    If some ways it does make sense to spend money on infrastructure because at least we will have something to show for the money. But, in order for that to work you have to waive the bullshit environmental, contracting, and union rules so that the projects can start now and not in 10 years. Also, let up on the regulation of small business so they can create jobs. How about raising the minimum size that a business has to be to be subject to discrimination and other federal laws from 50 to say 200. That way all of the business who are sitting at 49 employees can expand without incurring the marginal cost of complying with federal laws. Further, change the tax laws and stop taxing overseas income that is re-invested in the US. As it stands when a multinational makes money overseas, it pays taxes on that money if it invests it in it’s US operations. That is insane. Make it where they don’t have to pay taxes if the money is invested in the US.

    There is a lot of low hanging fruit out there. A lot of really stupid wealth killing shit that the government does that could be eliminated. But to do that, you have to be committed to something beyond looting the treasury. Sadly, that rules out the entire Democratic Party.

  44. Hugh:

    A) “It’s not working, we need to do more!”
    B) “It’s working! We need to do more!”

    *sigh*

    It’s a great argument that works for stimulus pakages and the War on Drugs Liberty.

    *echoes Bingo’s sigh*

  45. And more money for the public schools.

  46. Ok, so LurkerBold is LoneWacko? Really?

  47. J sub D, the public schools do need more money and are being unfairly competed against by Corporate schools. We will only have fair schools when they are all public schools.

  48. “There is a lot of low hanging fruit out there. A lot of really stupid wealth killing shit that the government does that could be eliminated. But to do that, you have to be committed to something beyond looting the treasury. Sadly, that rules out the entire Democratic Party”

    True – they don’t really give a damn about the state of the economy. All they really care about is expanding their own power and control over it (and everything else) via ever more wealth expropriation and redistribution.

  49. BDB, I am not LoneWacko but that imposter may be.

  50. I, the real LurkerBold, will use the tofu sushi link in my posts.

  51. “It’s not working, we need to do more!”

    Said another way, “In government, nothing succeeds like failure.”

  52. The post at 10:28 was not me.

    And yet, nobody cares.

  53. Promising that three-quarters of a trillion dollars will be allocated without pork is like promising that a 100-acre mass picnic will be kept free of ants.

  54. The post at 10:41 was not me.

  55. “you have to be committed to something beyond looting the treasury. Sadly, that rules out the entire Democratic Party political establishment”

  56. “Raising taxes just kills the economy.”

    I think you’d have to define “kill”. I don’t think they’d kill the economy nearly as much as China et. al., giving up on the gummint’s ability to make good on Treasury obligations. Something that will happen eventually should we keep borrowing, and like most bubbles it’s popping will be quick and ugly.

    Or, to paraphrase the dirty hippies, “What if they gave a Treasury auction and no one came?”

  57. I am the real LurkerBold. I know it is hard to tell me from the imitations because all posts with my name are equally crazy.

    My god who am I? I am having trouble telling the difference.

  58. Ha ha ha! See you in Hell, Bush-hating fools! Only now, when it’s too late, do you finally realize that slandering and libeling the righteous and civil man who was Bush made all your lies about him come true for his successor. You’re about to find out what REAL dictatorship, REAL mass murder, and REAL totalitarianism is like.

    As they say when you catch AIDS from fellating that Hamas-loving Nazi traitor Ron Paul (piss be upon him), “Serves you right, catamite!”

  59. 12:00 is not me. But this is, no really. Broadcasting from my mom’s basement. See? Why would I admit that if it was not me?

  60. The Chicago Tribune provided a very telling quote from Barack Obama himself about what we can expect from him in the White House.

    “My philosophy was that, if money was being distributed, then it would be inappropriate for me to not get my share for my district,” Obama, now one of the U.S. Senate Democrats’ leaders on ethics reform, said in an interview. “Did I think it was the best way to prioritize government spending? No.”

    Barack Obama voters are ignorant. Just look at the fiscal policies Barack Obama voted for in Illinois from 96-04 and how they’ve screwed up the state. Obama voted for $10 million government employee pension packages, then voted to reduce pension system payments pushing the burden onto our kids. We’re gonna get four more years of insane Bush/status quo fiscal policies, only on steroids under Obama (D-Daley). The average federal employee is compensated $130,000 a year and that’s going to balloon, along with our obligation, under Obama. Ignorant voters.

    “In the time it takes you to read this sentence, Illinois taxpayers will be $200 deeper in debt. The state’s pension debt will exceed $44 billion this summer, increasing at a rate of about $120 per second, according to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration.

    The debt already tops $42 billion – enough to give every one of Illinois’ 12.8 million residents a check for $3,300 or buy 937,000 Cadillacs at $45,000 a pop. – Springfield Register-Journal 5/25/08

  61. 12:01 now that is trolling!

  62. Sppprruuuce gets an A+.

  63. You can say that again!

    Lurker
    http://www.anonymity.at.tc

  64. OMG I have been trying to troll here for weeks and Sppprruuuce came in and schooled me in one shot. OH GOD WHY CAN’T I DO ANYTHING RIGHT!!!!

  65. The post at 1:38 is not me. However, I am Sppprruuce. Fooled you, suckers!

  66. sigh

    Obama’s “Massive Stimulus Package”

    Heh heh. Is that why Norah O’Donnell swoons?

    Like so many Irish redheads, it is difficult to tell where breast flesh ends and areola begins without first putting the pic through a high contrast filter.

  67. And I still think that Reason’s (and Jeff Flakes and Glenn Reynold’s) ‘war on earmarks’ is misguided at best, and distracting at worst.

    Kinda agree, but it’s worth pointing and laughing at such an obvious line of BS.

  68. We can’t afford three, four, five, six more months where we’re losing half a million jobs per month,

    Poor idiot. He’s been infected with the bureaucrat’s Uplifter Disease for which there is no cure.

    The bottom is the bottom – we’ll reach it no matter what. The only thing government can do is slow down the speed to which we hit bottom. Instead of 6 months of losing half a million jobs each, we’ll get 12 months of losing a quarter million jobs. We’ve been going through a 20-year period where we’ve been losing jobs at a rate of 20,000 each. What would you rather have – losing your job at age 30 or losing your job at age 50? I’ll take getting it over with sooner – I’ll be younger and have a better chance of recovery.

    While some may look at a soft landing as a good thing, there is another price to pay. The slowdowns come with dozens of federal acts and programs which can do nothing but favor group A over group B. Those favors plant and grow the seeds of distrust – in short it makes people even more hateful and more cynical, and makes any recovery take longer. Trading in interpersonal trust for a soft landing is a bad long-term deal.

  69. “Raising taxes just kills the economy.”

    John, 1993 is on the phone. He’d like a word with you.

  70. joe,

    Well, the 1993 multiple tax increase did not crush the economic recovery that had been underway since the first quarter or so of 1992. Of course no one to my knowledge in 1993 was predicting the economic performance of the mid to late 1990s. Furthermore, if I am not mistaken, the tax increase itself was spread out over a number of years, as such I wonder what the difference between the nominal and actual tax rate was.

  71. No, Seward, it did not stop the recovery.

    All the fearmongering about soup lines and a long recession was bullshit; the economy did just fine. In fact, it heated up so much that the Fed raised interest rates.

    There were those who predicted that “tax increases” would “kill the economy” back when Congress assembled in 1993. They were completely wrong. They didn’t know what they were talking about.

    Ironically enough, many of them are still around, proclaiming their superior understanding of economics and tax policy.

  72. Seward,

    Then again, they said the same thing about the tax-raising deficit-reduction deal that Poppy Bush struck with the Democratic Congress.

    I believe it was towards the end of 1991 when that tax increase took effect, but I might be off by a few months.

  73. At least he’s trying to hit bottom.

  74. joe,

    All the fearmongering about soup lines and a long recession was bullshit…

    I don’t recall any sort of fear mongering like that; then again, we are talking about Democrats and Republicans here. What I do recall is a lot of back and forth about who was going to ruin social security, etc.

    …the economy did just fine.

    Because of the tax increase? In a direct way, that is unlikely. The interpretation that I have found most convincing is that the nominal increase in taxes actually inhibited government spending. So I’m not all that worried about nominal increases if that is a common result of such, given how problematic government debt and spending is for economic growth as well as liberty generally.

  75. “Oh, and don’t get too attached to those proposed tax cuts, which “may be more than some Senate Democrats are willing to allow as members on Capitol Hill indicated they may want less in tax cuts than the president-elect.”

    Holy shit, the Democratic Party, of all entities, may not give us the tax cuts they promised. Who could have thought such a thing possible? Of course, anybody with half a fucking brain knew Obama’s promises of middle class tax cuts were pure bullshit. His middle class tax cuts will go the way of the middle class tax cuts Clinton promised ie they will never happen.

  76. “Sadly, I have a feeling that Obama will be no different than any other president before him (Dictator in Bushes case)”

    I’m sorry, but calling Bush a dictator is just fucking retarded.

  77. “George W Peron’s last press conference. I’m hoping he pulls a pistol out of his belt and blows his brains all over the ceiling, but I’m not holding my breath.”

    Again, more of the same stupid bullshit, this time with a lot less class. If I keep reading, I bet I will start seeing the Nazi references.

  78. In past recessions under Republican administrations, the media always cited studies showing that most recessions were over long before any effect of government spending began to kick in.*

    Where are those studies, and why aren’t they being dragged out now?

    (*It wasn’t so much that the media and the left – but I repeat myself – doesn’t like Big, Strong Government, but that they didn’t want a Republican to be able to claim any credit.)

  79. “Again, more of the same stupid bullshit, this time with a lot less class. If I keep reading, I bet I will start seeing the Nazi references.”

    “Class” and “liberal” are mutually exclusive.

    Witness the Golden Globes. Witness “the View.”

    Obama scripts his press conferences, just as happens in Russia. Bush never did.

  80. These are facts: The higher your taxes, the lower the revenue. The more you spend on public schools, the worse the result. The more spent on welfare, the more you hear about poverty (which now means only having 4 wide-screen HDTVs). The more we hear about children “going to bed hungry,” the more we also hear about an epidemic of obese diabetic children.

    Socialism creeps in because people have very simplistic notions of spending problems away. The government can’t spend its money on “stimulus packages” because the government HAS NO MONEY. That’s YOUR money they’re talking about, morons.

    They’re talking about stealing MORE of your money. And you let them do it every paycheck, because you tell yourselves that at least some faceless “rich” guy is getting even more soaked. But what they don’t tell you is that the extremely wealthy don’t pay the same taxes as you because it’s not INCOME.

    Warren Buffett is not paying for the welfare state. It’s the waitress at the local diner and the guy pumping gas.

    I didn’t realize I would get to see this entire nation unravel and decline before the Chosen One even had his coronation.

    Well, I guess all things end in weeping.

  81. Gone are the “earmarks” Obama’s Stimulus Package is one big old HOG! These cons make Chicago Politics seem like the good old days!

    Let’s see now, the Democrat Party spent the last few years doing everything possible to destroy the economy for the sake of creating an economic crisis…”Create a Crisis” isn’t that right out of the Hitler playbook?

    Funny thing, when people elect a SOCIALIST WITH COMMUNIST roots…they get everything that goes with it. Did they really think that a man born from five generations of communists would result in something different? Shocked? Look what his cousin did in Kenya, sold them out to the Muslim radicals.

    The poor will become even more poor and the elite think they will control us all. AMERICA is being drained by corrupt politicians and their pals. Wouldn’t it be nice if the useful idiots in the media would stop helping them?

    WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD!

  82. “I feel you. Mayor Coleman (Columbus, Ohio) is talking about a “light rail” project (which is really just a fancy term for a street car that will run up and down High Street). It is the stupidest thing I have heard of in a long time.”

    Come to Phoenix & you can see our very own stupid light rail project, another train to nowhere, that only cost about $1 billion. You might not hear of it though, it’s a very quiet train, apparently.

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