Government Spending

A Streetcar Named Stimulus

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Bloomberg skewers Republicans who opposed the stimulus package but are happy to grab as much of the money as they can for their districts and states:

Alabama Republicans Jo Bonner and Robert Aderholt took to the U.S. House floor in July, denouncing the Obama administration's stimulus plan for failing to boost employment. "Where are the jobs?" each of them asked.

Over the next three months, Bonner and Aderholt tried at least five times to steer stimulus-funded transportation grants to Alabama on grounds that the projects would help create thousands of jobs.

The story cites several other examples, including my congressman, Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who is sure that a Dallas streetcar line funded by stimulus money is just the thing to improve my "quality of life." As head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Sessions was responsible for "a video montage of clips edited to show a series of news anchors and commentators asking 'Where are the jobs?'" Yet he brags that the $23 million in Recovery Act money that he snagged for the streetcar project "will create jobs in the region."

Since the logic of the Recovery Act was the logic of pork-pulling press releases writ large, none of this is surprising. I have no doubt that if you spend taxpayers' money on a streetcar line that no one will use, some of it will go to people who build said boondoggle in exchange for their labor, an arrangement that can conveniently be summarized by a certain three-letter word. To the extent that critics of the Recovery Act said it would not "create jobs" in this sense, they are indeed refuted by the sight of people working on a gratuitous tribute to Pete Sessions' vanity. But the real question, the one that President Obama has tried to dodge by treating job creation as an end in itself, is whether this money is well spent—and in particular, whether it would have been better used if it had been allocated by the market instead of the government.

[Thanks to Tricky Vic for the tip.]

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  1. “Bloomberg skewers Republicans who opposed the stimulus package but are happy to grab as much of the money as they can for their districts and states:”

    So, if you oppose theft you are a hypocrite for wanting to try to return some of that money to the its rightful owners. Do I have their logic about right?

    1. My question is when do people put “their money where their mouth is?”

      If wealth transfers are wrong and I am opposed to them, how can I honestly take them?

      Is there really any hope of ending the Welfare State when those who argue it’s immorality refuse to take the lead?

      1. My question is when do people put “their money where their mouth is?”

        When they’re out of power.

      2. I could be wrong (in fact I often am) but I think the OP’s point is that the people of a state whose governor opposed the stimulus are not immune from paying for said stimulus later anyway, so should the governor be faulted for having his state “benefit” from the derided stimulus now?

        1. Fist of Eticquette is correct. It would be one thing if there were some way of a governor of protecting his state’s residents from the resulting higher taxes but that is not the way things work in our now-corrupted-system.

    2. Except it doesn’t go back to its rightful owners. It goes back to state and municipalities where it is funneled off by bureaucrats and their contractor friends.

  2. Republicans who opposed the stimulus package but are happy to grab as much of the money as they can for their districts and states:

    And I oppose targeted tax deductions like the home mortgage interest deduction, but as long as the home mortgage deduction is the law I’d be stupid if I did not use that deduction myself.

  3. I don’t blame the guys for getting the money if they could, but they should’ve presented it as “Getting my district’s tax money back,” not “it’ll create jobs in my district!”

    1. Note that even if you don’t think that the stimulus will create jobs on net, you can still think it will shift jobs around. So if your district gets more than its fair share, your district gains jobs. If it doesn’t, your district loses jobs.

    2. That’s what I meant to say

  4. I thought the job situation wasn’t too bad in Dallas?

    1. It isn’t now, thanks to me – Pete Sessions!

  5. I have to agree that at some point, the congresscrap have to fight just to get their money back. (As do the rest of us). The dilemma just shows how big government becomes it’s own problem. In the Soviet Union, it was pretty hard not to work for the government.

    1. “”I have to agree that at some point, the congresscrap have to fight just to get their money back.””

      They all want to bring money back to their state. If you play that out, then it’s not wrong to ask for pork, since we are going to be taxed anyway.

      If you think pork spending is bad, then it’s bad, just because your neighbor is getting some doesn’t make it any better.

      1. If you play that out, then it’s not wrong to ask for pork, since we are going to be taxed anyway.

        In the case of the stimulus, the dollar amount was approved first, then states competed for the money.

        That’s different from bills with earmarks, where the pork is added knowing what district it will go to in order to buy votes.

        Here, competing for the money was done after the fact, long after the amount appropriated was fixed.

        1. Do you think the republicans knew that when they voted against the stimulus?

        2. The President signed the bill into law around Feb 15.

          The money was allocated to the states prior to the signing of the bill. The competition was not after the fact.

          http://online.wsj.com/public/r…..S0109.html

  6. I actually use that specific streetcar. It is operated under DART as the M-Line. The operational costs are covered by the McKinney Avenue business association. The stimulus funds are being used to expand the trolley system. They were planning to expand it before the stimulus anyway. I for one are happy that my federal taxes are being used instead of my local taxes.

    A far sillier project is the plan to spend 100 million to build a five acre park over a highway in front of the Dallas Museum of Art. http://www.theparkdallas.org/

    I guess I will use it once its there.

    1. I have never been to Dallas. I have no plans on being there in the foreseeable future.

      Just KNOWING that something like that park would get built is worth the whopping $.33 it would cost me, as an average American. There is actually a very similar situation in the nearest major city to where I live: an expressway bisects the downtown area from the waterfront, and there are only limited (and often inconvenient) ways to cross it.

      1. We have no problem crossing it. There are plenty of streets with sidewalks that cross the highway. Even the now famous trolley to nowhere goes over it. Yes Downtown does lack a park. However, I guess it never occured to them that they could buy a few parking lots in the dead east side of downtown and build it for 10 million.

      2. If it’s worth $.33 cents to you, then you should feel free to voluntarily donate that amount of money to the city. Knowing that a park will be built in Dallas is worth precisely zero to me, and I shouldn’t have to pay anything for it.

        1. Actually, it looks like the federal share is only a sixth of the total, so I guess I owe six cents.

          And yes, I donated already, just for fun.

      3. There’s tons of bridges that cross Woodall Rogers; crossing it isn’t a problem. Subsidizing the convenience of not getting on Pearl Street is not a valid function of the federal government.

  7. What three-letter word? I’m too lazy to go through the list…

    http://www.yak.net/kablooey/scrabble/3letterwords.html

    If the word is ‘bad’ you can go fsck yourself and mv ~/* /dev/null.

    1. Never mind – he obviously meant ‘job’, although ‘gig’ actually fits better.

      Stutterers! Say this 5x:

      Giga-gig-creation

  8. If I ever go to Dallas, I will be SURE to ride the streetcar, just to prove Jacob’s hyperbole wrong.

    1. That’ll learn him

    2. It is often empty, though when I am on it that is all that counts. I find a nice way to leave downtown when I am trashed.

      1. Actually, one of the best features of public transit is the ability to get trashed with your friends and still get home…and not worry so much about other people driving drunk.

  9. To the extent that critics of the Recovery Act said it would not “create jobs” in this sense, they are indeed refuted by the sight of people working on a gratuitous tribute to Pete Sessions’ vanity.

    Right, but there’s no contradiction between “this doesn’t create jobs on net, because it’s just shifting money around” and “if my district gets more money shifted to it than in deserved, then we gain jobs (by stealing them from elsewhere).”

  10. We got 63 mil here in Tucson. It’s gonna cost me way too much for ever

    1. Yeah, $63 million. With interest, it might end up costing you a quarter.

  11. Wow, thats a whole lotta money dude. I mean like WOW.

    Jess
    http://www.anonymous-tools.se.tc

  12. If this was the dems, you guys would be having a field day.

  13. The M Line is run by a private non-profit organization, McKinney Avenue Transit Authority. This organization is not part of the city or DART. They have a service contract with DART and receive funds from the local landowners through the Uptown Public Improvement District as well as donations and grants from non-government sources. They also use a mix of volunteer and paid labor. The streetcar line that the City of Dallas received is not the extension of MATA. It is a new city streetcar line with modern streetcars

    Don’t use faulty logic, HH. Just because it is not full when you ride it doesn’t mean nobody uses it. How would they be approaching annual ridership of 300,000 if nobody rides it?

  14. Roger this: “Don’t use faulty logic, HH. Just because it is not full when you ride it doesn’t mean nobody uses it. How would they be approaching annual ridership of 300,000 if nobody rides it?” Exactly. Faulty logic and presenting opinion as fact is commonplace among people who vent, as is their favorite worn-smooth epithet “boondoggle”. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Do you know how much subsidy goes into roads, harbors and airports?

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