Stimulus As Usual


Over at National Review, a nice breakdown of some of the foolishness embedded in the current stimulus package, with particular focus on the sort of foolishness that tends to irk the right. Some details:

The National Endowment for the Arts, for example, is in line for $50 million, increasing its total budget by a third….sure enough, there is $5.2 billion for community-development block grants and "neighborhood stabilization activities," which ACORN is eligible to apply for. Finally, the bill allocates $650 million for activities related to the switch from analog to digital TV, including $90 million to educate "vulnerable populations" that they need to go out and get their converter boxes or lose their TV signals. Obviously, this is stimulative stuff: Any economist will tell you that you can't get higher productivity and economic growth without access to reruns of Family Feud…..

One theme in this bill is superfluous spending items coated with green sugar to make them more palatable. Both NASA and NOAA come in for appropriations that properly belong in the regular budget, but this spending apparently qualifies for the stimulus bill because part of the money from each allocation is reserved for climate-change research…..

The problem with trying to spend $1 trillion quickly is that you end up wasting a lot of it. Take, for instance, the proposed $4.5 billion addition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget. Not only does this effectively double the Corps' budget overnight, but it adds to the Corps' $3.2 billion unobligated balance—money that has been appropriated, but that the Corps has not yet figured out how to spend……

Speaking of spending money unwisely, the stimulus bill adds another $850 million for Amtrak, the railroad that can't turn a profit. There's also $1.7 billion for "critical deferred maintenance needs" in the National Park System, and $55 million for the preservation of historic landmarks. Also, the U.S. Coast Guard needs $87 million for a polar icebreaking ship—maybe global warming isn't working fast enough…..

The state-bailout fund has a built-in provision to channel the money to the Democrats' most reliable group of campaign donors: the teachers' unions. The current bill requires that a fixed percentage of the bailout money go toward ensuring that school budgets are not reduced below 2006 levels. Given that the fastest-growing segment of public-school expense is administrators' salaries—not teachers' pay, not direct spending on classroom learning—this is a requirement that has almost nothing to do with ensuring high-quality education and everything to do with ensuring that the school bureaucracy continues to be a cash cow for Democrats.

The whole piece is worth reading, full of particular figures from a process that is clearly less about stimulus and more about ramming in everyone and their uncle's union's spending wish list in a monstrous package with a vetting process even more slapdash and thoughtless than usual when our politicians are spending (our grandchildren's) money.

Link via the always very useful Rational Review.