Thursday, January 29, 2009

Trying To Drink Ourselves Sober

A 40 Year Wish List, from the Wall Street Journal

You won't believe what's in that stimulus bill.
Oh? Try me.

....We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years;
But think of all the Americans who just might use Amtrak one day. Maybe. Perhaps.

$2 billion for child-care subsidies;
In other words, a breeding incentive....

$50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts;
Hello, Doctor Ralph ! Tell all the BoHo's to break out their paintbrushes !

$400 million for global-warming research....
Hmmmm.....I wonder what conclusions they'll reach? Is there any doubt? Should they even bother with buying thermometers?

and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects.
That's $2.4 billion just to DEMONSTRATE carbon-capture. They're not yet paying for it to be done in the real world. But you soon will be.

There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.
That's paying a lot of bread for people to watch the circus. Didn't Juvenal have something to say about that?

....Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion) that have a low or negative return on investment. Most urban transit systems are so badly managed that their fares cover less than half of their costs. However, the people who operate these systems belong to public-employee unions that are campaign contributors to . . . guess which party?
The Greens? Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat Party? The Constitution Party? The Surprise Party? I give up. Tell us, Oh Wall Street Journal, tell us.
Naw. Let's delete that part.

.....Here's another lu-lu: Congress wants to spend $600 million more for the federal government to buy new cars. Uncle Sam already spends $3 billion a year on its fleet of 600,000 vehicles.
Well, how are they going to demonstrate Carbon Capture unless they have Carbon Emitting Cars to capture the carbon from? Doh !

....As for the promise of accountability, some $54 billion will go to federal programs that the Office of Management and Budget or the Government Accountability Office have already criticized as "ineffective" or unable to pass basic financial audits. These include the Economic Development Administration, the Small Business Administration, the 10 federal job training programs, and many more.
Those people vote too, you know. Don't they deserve something for Christmas?

Oh, and don't forget education, which would get $66 billion more. That's more than the entire Education Department spent a mere 10 years ago and is on top of the doubling under President Bush. Some $6 billion of this will subsidize university building projects. If you think the intention here is to help kids learn, the House declares on page 257 that "No recipient . . . shall use such funds to provide financial assistance to students to attend private elementary or secondary schools." Horrors: Some money might go to nonunion teachers.
I'll let that one stand on its own.

The larger fiscal issue here is whether this spending bonanza will become part of the annual "budget baseline" that Congress uses as the new floor when calculating how much to increase spending the following year, and into the future.
No, that's not an issue. Don't act like they're even arguing the point. This is going to become a permanent part of the budget. Nothing is more permanent than temporary government spending.

This is supposed to be a new era of bipartisanship, but this bill was written based on the wish list of every living -- or dead -- Democratic interest group. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, "We won the election. We wrote the bill." So they did. Republicans should let them take all of the credit.
I'm really tired of people talking about bipartisanship as if it were a good thing. Republicans worked hand in hand with Democrats to run up our current bar tab of $10,800,000,000,000.00
And now the Republicans want to run for the parking lot without paying? Just because the bar tab is about to double? Now that we're teetering on the edge of a spending disaster, they don't even want to argue about who ordered the last Margarita or the three JaegerBombs or the extra-spicy buffalo wings with Ranch dip?
Freakin' cowards, all of you.
Texas Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison ! ! ! I'm calling you out on this one ! ! ! Get your wrinkled butts back in there and help the Democrats blow some money.


Dr Ralph said...

WS -- so very much to respond to. I just don't have the energy to snag every foul ball coming off that bat of yours. Forgive me if I ignore some of our previous battlegrounds.

$2 billion for child-care subsidies: lots of families now need both parents to work. "A breeding incentive" -- WTF?

Public transportation, renewable energy -- you think spending on these is a bad thing? I love you, dude, but sometimes that short-sightedness of yours drives me nuts. The goal with mass transit is not just making money (seriously, is it always about money?) but reducing the number of cars, reducing emissions, letting people spend less money on gas. I'd give up my commute on I-35 in a heartbeat. There's a benefit (less traffic) even if you choose to drive yourself.

What's your argument on renewable energy -- that it's cheaper while it lasts? That sounds like the Arkansas traveler who never fixes his roof while it's sunny because it's not leaking then.

I could go on, but the rest of my life beckons.

Quite frankly, editorials these days in the Murdoch-ized Wall Street Journal carry about as much weight with me as every other shrill burst from right-wing media flacks -- none. They still can't quite believe the American people tossed them out.

CountingCats said...

The Whited Sepulchre said...

I thought that I had responded to your comment already. Perhaps I pulled a "Dr Liz", and responded under the wrong post.

Either way, I will reconstruct it as best I can. But I have to make use of the quotes graciously provided (above) by either NickM or the Feline Enumerator:

"Pulling together is the aim of despots and tyrannies. Free men pull in all kinds of directions."

-paraphrased from Lord Vetinari

"The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it."

- Adam Smith

The Vetenari quote, in reference to the current discussion, essentially means that the current manifestation of our government is up to no good. Not only that, but according to the Smith quote, they have no earthly idea what they're doing.

Perhaps one day, there will be a Whited Sepulchre quote to the effect that this is just The Spoils System in action. Nothing more.

Regarding your specific objections: If you want more of something, you subsidize it. If you want less of it, you tax it. All programs and policies should be judged, not on their stated goals and objectives, but on the incentives they create. Therefore the childcare subsidy is a breeding incentive.

Public transportation and renewable energy: I would love for Fort Worth to have some decent public transportation, but only if it was privatized. (That wasn't in my original response, but I'm kinda proud of it.) But is there a hope in Hades that ANY of this money could go to say a private bus company? A group of investors willing to put in a Cowtown Subway system? Naw.
Also, things like this require a bit of long-term planning. Years of it. If this thing really is an economic stimulus, the relatively mild stimulus part of it will kick in right about the time the recession ends. (Unless the Obamessiah intends to continue jacking with the economy. In that case, who knows when the recession will end.)

I believe my stance on government funded renewable energy boondoggles has been noted elsewhere.

Last but not least, the money they're talking about does not exist !!!! Hear that humming sound coming from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, over on Blue Mound Road? They're printing the money for this bailout. The only reason inflation isn't totally kicking us in the butt - the decline in oil prices and the glutt in the housing market. We're going to have too many dollars chasing too few products. Imagine buying silver or gold as your retirment, and then having someone find an unlimited supply of silver and gold somewhere in the Caribbean. Those rare precious metals wouldn't be worth much any more.
Plus, all these extra dollars don't harm the wealthy that much. They're the first people who get to spend the new Funny Money, before prices have risen. The truly cruel part of this is the impact on fixed income people, earning less money, and those with nothing but a little cash. They generally don't get raises until long after the market has been flooded with Funny Money. They get screwed by almost the exact same percentage that they wealthy are rewarded.

Ya gotta love it. If you're a cynic, anyway.

The last thing.... Nothing that matters has changed. No one has been thrown out. The phony choice between heads or tails of the same coin has been preserved. We've had a shift change.

Dr Ralph said...

WS - Over a day passed before you responded to my original post. I was beginning to think you no longer loved me.

As is often the case, I agree with you in part, specifically your remark about taxing and subsidizing.

Where I disagree is in what is being encouraged, specifically with subsidized child care. The incentive is to enable both sets of parents to be wage-earners. Child care issues rarely enter into to the consideration of breeding, especially (shall we say) unintended breeding. If you want to encourage that, underwrite Barry White CDs.

Re: public transportation. Probably we will never see eye to eye on this one. In most urban settings mass transit is a public, not private, operation. To me this is essentially an infrastructure thing. It doesn't need to make a profit to be a success; it's successful if it reduces the demand on other infrastructure, like roads. The Trinity Rail Express is a good example of what I'm talking about. The City of Fort Worth probably doesn't turn a profit on water, either.Though I'd like you to know my reasoning I know we'll never agree.

Your stance on renewable energy has been duly noted, as has mine; like you, I don't feel the need to rehash that can of worms. You'd just use it as an excuse to make snarky remarks about Al Gore.

Finally, besides keeping the workers on Blue Mound idle, how would you deal with the current economic situation? What I've heard from your brethren so far has been long on rhetoric and short on actual plans. "Sit tight," seems to be the gist of it.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Believe it or not, I'm preparing to type up a Magnum Opus in which Saint Albert finds himself on the side of the angels, for once.

As far as how we should handle the current economic situation caused by government involvement in the housing market, government produced inflation, government picking losers and winners in what should be a Free Market, government manipulation of interest rates, and government enthusiasm for propping up companies that should be allowed to go under?
You're asking how to improve on the concept of "Do Nothing; Tell Government To Butt Out." ?????

I don't think I can improve on that.

Dr Ralph said...

WS - when it snows here in Texas, "sit tight and do nothing," is a viable strategy. When it snows in (say) Chicago or Buffalo, NY, that's not a workable plan.

Say hello to Buffalo.

"Sit tight and do nothing," may sound good while you have a job, but would you feel this way if you were to suddenly find yourself unemployed? If so, for how long?

You make the mistake of assuming everything would magically be all better if we only had a free market. Your faith is touching, but I don't share it.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

I don't think any advocate of Free Markets believes that they will solve all problems. (Some good jobs go elsewhere, and never, ever come back.) But I sincerely believe that they create fewer problems.

Let's assume someone named....Bubba...breakes into your house. Bubba takes the family silverware, stops up the drains and floods the house, vandalizes the pictures, smashes the windows, sets a few fires in the corners, and as a parting gift, Bubba takes a dump in the middle of the bedspread.

What should Bubba do to help solve your problem? How much more Bubba involvement do you require? Do you want Bubba to take more of the family silverware so he can give it to the carpenter down the street so he can hire people to repair the fire damage? (This would create jobs ! ! !) Do you want him to hire a vast multitude for the Post-Ralphaelite Bedspread Recovery Program, so they can determine exactly what you should use as a bedspread replacement ? (This would be an economic stimulus ! !) How much help do you want from Bubba when it comes time to replace windows? You might need some Bubba regulation and oversight.

Or would you be happier if Bubba just stayed home for a couple of decades?

Doctor, for the amount that Congress just approved (according to Ben Stein in the New York Post), "we could have given every unemployed person in the United States roughly $75,000.

We could give every person who had lost a job and is now passing through long-term unemployment of six months or longer roughly $300,000."

But that wouldn't reward the donor base. The point of this abortion is to reward Democrats.

And guess what percentage of this "stimulus" will be spent in 2009 ?

(Answer: 10%)

As stated many, many times before, I don't like the idea of hiring arsonists as firefighters.
I'm also pissed-off beyond belief that the man recently approved as bailer-outer in chief, bailout extortion collector, supervisor of the IRS, Timothy Geithner, is a confirmed Tax Dodger. He didn't just make mistakes. He did everything in his power to avoid paying his share into the hog trough.
Even the staunchest advocates of this mess go to desperate measures to avoid paying anything into it.

The Whited Sepulchre said...


We've got more. It seems that Tom Daschle, the nominee for Health and Human Services, has also been naughty.

Here's the L.A. Times - Tom Daschle, once considered assured of breezing through his confirmation as secretary of Health and Human Services, soon will face tough questioning on Capitol Hill about underpaying his income taxes and his extensive work for clients in the healthcare industry, Republican aides said Saturday.

GOP lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee are preparing to grill the former Senate majority leader about his failure to pay more than $128,000 in taxes for 2005 to 2007."

Everybody wants a circus, nobody wants to buy a ticket.

I bet someone could come to you with almost ANY worthwhile cause, and if you believed in it, you'd donate $100 to the cause.

But have you ever been drunk enough to voluntarily donate $100 to the U.S. Treasury?

Dr Ralph said...

WS - glad to hear you admit the much ballyhooed Free Market is not a guaranteed cure-all. I've always been convinced of your innate intelligence.

Nor do I discount the the Free Market in it's entirety. As I've said before: I'm a pragmatist. Whatever works. Despite the reputation I seem to have gotten around here, I'm not an idealogue.

However, in your example, I'm not sure Bubba is the only one who's been shitting on the bedspread.

While I have great respect for you, I can't say the same for some of your sources. Ben Stein, Nixon apologist and most recently a shill for the creationists in the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is not in my mind a credible source of information. Here's a man who claims the theory of evolution contributed to fascism, the Nazi Holocaust, communism, atheism, abortion and eugenics. And I'm supposed to believe him?

I've previously stated I take no exception to any one who thinks Geithner's a bad choice. The same goes for Tom Daschle if he's been overly creative or forgetful in doing his taxes. At my office, no one is "indispensible" and every one of us is replaceable. The same applies to these guys.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Please don't misunderstand me.
I am a Free Market idealogue.
I think it's the best thing since Cool Ranch Doritos.
But it's not going to bring peace to the Middle East, for instance. However, if the Israelis and Arabs were trading more with each other, and relied on each other more for just a few things? It would sure help.
Say I needed some graphics/web design help. Let's also assume that you were moving, and needed three box trucks for a day. After intense negotiaion, we agree that two days of Post-Ralphaelite creative effort is worth one day's use of three box trucks. We agree that we will pay taxes on these services. Once that's done, is there any reason to involve Bubba, The Teamster's Union, The HTML Thread-Closers Local, Trent Lott, or Nancy Pelosi ? I think not.

Also, Bubba has no party affiliation. He gets into your home through BiPartisan efforts. Whenever he lays out a Hot Steamer on your bedspread, there are implicit and explicit explicit guarantees that Bubba will be there for the cleanup. This ensures full employment for Bubba. Some people believe this is a good thing.

I'm well aware of Ben Stein's creationist crimes against logic. But do a bit o' Googling. You can find attacks against the man, but not his numbers on this issue. (I was a huge fan of "Win Ben Stein's Money" until it was canceled, BTW. One of the few game shows I've ever watched.)

I'm glad you were somewhat repulsed by the "Geithner is irreplaceable" argument. One messiah in Washington is enough.

Dr Ralph said...

WS - I may not always agree with you, but by God, you turn a mean phrase! That's why I keep coming back for more!

Anonymous said...

Don't he!!!!!!!!!!