Can You Smell What Obama's Cooking?

Why the president's new stimulus won't work


You may recall Barack Obama claiming that the original stimulus plan didn't need any more tax cuts or "piecemeal" measures. To suggest so was to engage in "politics as usual." And trust me; you don't want to be caught going there.

And today? You know what, America? You look as if you're ready for some piecemeal measures and a fake tax cut!

No doubt it came as a shock to many of you that weatherizing windows couldn't get a $14 trillion economy cooking again. But if an $800 billion infusion of government and union bailouts failed to spur any decent economic growth, then how is a new "piecemeal" $50 billion stimulus going to work out?

Media reports tell me this is more complex. The president has devised an exhilarating new plan that will not only "jump-start" job creation but also fund and rebuild the "crumbling" infrastructure of the United States in brand-new ways.

Have you noticed that the infrastructure always is "crumbling" in news stories and presidential speeches—if less regularly in the real world. To many Democrats, "crumbling" means we're not subsidizing smart grids and high-speed rail projects fast enough.

For those of you who drive, though, a recent Reason Foundation study measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of roads—including deficient bridges, urban traffic congestion, fatality rates, pavement condition, etc.—and finds that roads haven't been in better shape at any time in the past 19 years.

Then again, free market nihilists always are daydreaming about bridges collapsing on innocent Americans—if at all possible, poor and disabled Americans.

We should concede that the highway system has been mismanaged by government and that it always could use more efficient funding. But creating a system wherein Washington dictates spending dollars is hardly a brilliant new plan. It's the same plan this administration has for funding public schools, student loans, mortgages, health insurance, and energy—among other knickknacks—which is to say, centrally and with progressive ethical strings tightly attached.

Speaking of which, today it's expected that Obama will announce a proposal to permanently extend the business research and development tax credit. Not a new tax cut, mind you, but an acceleration of one that exists. That seems helpful. (No, seriously.)

Tax cuts for small businesses are always morally acceptable. Small businesses are innocuous coffee shops. Big business is chemical spills. They don't deserve anything. Tax cuts for small businesses help florists, whereas "capital gains" cuts help hedge fund managers, who should be drawn and quartered, not rewarded.

During Labor Day weekend, I caught a number of Democratic candidates calling themselves tax cutters in ads. Yet nearly all of the tax cuts Americans have seen the past year and a half advance some liberal moral or social good. The overriding goal of the stimuli and tax breaks—from the things we build to the jobs we save to the tax credits we get—is to pick economic winners, steer us in the right direction, and wheedle citizens to be good boys and girls.

To offer comprehensive, amoral cuts would be to admit ideological defeat. To allow them to work would mean a long-term disaster for Obama and the type of Democrats who now inhabit Congress.

This president never would surrender to such indignity.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.