Economics

PATRIOT 2: This Time It's Stimulating

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Steve Horwitz on the "stimulus" bill:

One of the (correct) complaints about the proposed stimulus plan is that it's full of all kinds of programs that would appear to have nothing to do with any accepted economic theory about what sorts of spending could even possibly lead to recovery. The best example of this is the funds for family planning policy that are [make that were -jw] in the bill….

This isn't just your run-of-the-mill pork. What we are seeing happen right now is that Congress sees this crisis as an opportunity to enact a whole variety of programs that they've wanted to pass for years, especially (but not only) the Democrats who no longer fear a veto, and now finally have the chance. Just as the Patriot Act was a bunch of laws waiting for a political "crisis," so is much of the stimulus package a bunch of programs waiting for an economic "crisis." The current crisis is just a convenient excuse….

This is why people like [Paul] Krugman and [Brad] DeLong have to accuse their opponents of acting in bad faith: there is precious little economic evidence for the benefits of large fiscal policy initiatives. What these are really about is enacting programs and policies that people like them have wanted for years on their own supposed merits, independent of any "stimulus." The crisis is just the reason to carpe diem. So rather than a debate over the merits of particular programs, we get the language of crisis and fear thrown at us so that we'll swallow them all, whole hog, with little debate.

Read the whole thing. And watch this space: My column tomorrow will cover some similar parallels between the current crisis-mongering and the crisis-mongering of Bush's first term.

NEXT: The Trillion-Dollar Stimulus

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  1. The best example of this is the funds for family planning policy that are in the bill….

    I’m pretty sure Obama had that provision pulled from the bill. Yesterday.

  2. That’s my fault, not Horwitz’s — his post went up before that was pulled. I just added an update.

  3. Jesse Walker,

    Well, was it pulled because of a general attitude that one should be skeptical of government funding? Seems unlikely.

  4. None of these “pass everything” bills are ever any good. Except for the recipients of the largess, I suppose.

  5. So Naomi was right about tactics, just wrong about which side was using them.

  6. Well, was it pulled because of a general attitude that one should be skeptical of government funding? Seems unlikely.

    It was pulled because it was politically unpopular, not for any principled reason. (Otherwise they’d pull the whole bill.) Horwitz’s example is still a good one; I just needed to fix the tense.

  7. The bill is stimulating in the same sense that getting tazed in the taint is stimulating, and with a similar process, too.

  8. Obama is making a show of trying to get the Republicans to buy into the legislation – but he doesn’t need any of them to get it passed.

    The dems can pass it without the GOP.

    Obama and the dems just want political cover so that when the big turkey doesn’t pay off as advertised down the road, they can say the Republicans were responsible for it too.

  9. Obama is making a show of trying to get the Republicans to buy into the legislation – but he doesn’t need any of them to get it passed.

    The dems can pass it without the GOP.

    Obama and the dems just want political cover so that when the big turkey doesn’t pay off as advertised down the road, they can say the Republicans were responsible for it too.

    I don’t mean to be “that guy”, but, well…duh.

  10. It is never a waste of time to explicitly mention the mendacity of Democrats.

  11. they can say the Republicans were responsible for it too.

    Fortunately, they are, so nobody will be wrongfully associated. Just like the dems aren’t wrongfully associated with the Iraq war or the PATRIOT act. Just like the republicans aren’t wrongfully associated with TARP.

  12. Jesse Walker,

    An allied point that your post brought to mind:

    I seem to recall after 9/11 articles being written about how great it was that we had elected Bush, since he had appointed a team so experienced in foreign policy. Sort of a version of the great man theory of politics.

  13. Every crackpot with a pet project is looking at this as his chance to make it big.

    I’m working on mine; as soon as I find a pregnant one-legged lesbian indian Native American (with a glass eye, if I’m lucky) to be the CEO of my new geothermal ethanol plantation, I’m taking my tin cup to Washington.

  14. “It is never a waste of time to explicitly mention the mendacity of Democrats politicians.”

    Don’t kid yourself, Gilbert.

  15. “Fortunately, they are, so nobody will be wrongfully associated.

    The vote hasn’t taken place on it yet, so that remains to be seen.

  16. just like the republicans aren’t wrongfully associated with TARP.

    In the sense that it was a Bush sponsored program, executed (badly) by Paulson, they are. More specifically, while many Republicans get credit for being against it on a retail level, the fact that the (Republican) Administration, the majority of Senate Republican, and the McCain campaign specifically all pushed for it make the Republicans associated with it. Why this is different from the AUMF, I can’t explain.

  17. Funny, I remeber saying this same thing about a week ago.

    If I didn’t have most of this page blocked by my Internet Nazi department, I’d Google it myself, but it is as it is…

  18. Carpe Pork!

  19. “So Naomi was right about tactics, just wrong about which side was using them.”

    Remember, in her world, corporate welfare is a free market practice.

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