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Morning Bell: A Trillion Dollar Bridge to Nowhere

Posted By Conn Carroll On February 3, 2009 @ 9:03 am In Ongoing Priorities | Comments Disabled

The more the American people learn about President Barack Obama’s Trillion Dollar Debt Plan [1], the more they don’t like it. According to a Gallup Poll [2] released today, 54% of Americans either want Congress to reject Obama’s debt plan entirely, or they want major changes to it. Only 37% support the plan in its current form. A full 78% of Americans are significantly concerned that the plan will not stimulate the economy fast enough and 53% of Americans believe the plan will not have an effect at all.

There is a reason even Democratic Senators [3] are calling Obama’s Trillion Dollar Debt Plan [1] the “so-called stimulus [3]” bill. There is very little in the plan actually designed to stimulate the economy. Only $137 billion of the $884 billion in the bill is is devoted to infrastructure spending [4]. That is just 15%. The rest of the bill is filled with short and long term efforts by the far left in Obama’s party to permanently redistribute spending and power away from the private sector and toward government [5].

The Pork

The real problem with Obama’s Trillion Dollar Debt Plan is the permanent new education [6] and health care [7] spending disingenuously passed off as “temporary stimulus.” But all of the non-stimulus line items in the bill make for a more vivid demonstration of what the left is trying to accomplish. The pork in this bill includes: $1 billion for Amtrak, $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts; $400 million for global warming research; $2.4 billion for clean coal; $650 million for even more digital TV conversion coupons; $600 million for new government cars; $7 billion for modernizing federal buildings; $150 million for the Smithsonian; [8] $345 million for Agriculture Department computers; $870 million to combat the flu; $400 million to fight STDs [9]; $3 billion for after school programs; $1 billion Community Oriented Policing Services [10]; $1 billion to help states collect child support; $400 million for NASA to compile climate change research; $400 million for the Department of Commerce to fund habitat restoration projects at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and $400 million for the Social Security Administration to replace its computer system.

All of this spending may have merit on its own, but none of it belongs in an economic stimulus bill.

The Waste

Even the actual infrastructure spending in the bill is rife with leftist priorities that guarantee the money will be wasted instead of creating public goods capable of helping the economy grow. The Trillion Dollar Debt Plan includes $9 billion for expanding broadband to rural areas of the country. But a report last month by Pew [11]shows one in three Americans not currently on the internet have no interest in going on line now regardless of the cost. As the New York Times reports, this makes the Debt Plan’s broadband effort “a $9 billion cyberbridge to nowhere. [12]

Other popular infrastructure items like school construction are also destined to be wasted. The Milwaukee Public Schools would reap $88.6 million over two years for new construction under the debt plan even though the district has 15 vacant school buildings, a large surplus of property and no plans for new construction. [13] And don’t forget the ‘Buy American’ provisions that big labor is pushing. Not only could they start a Great Depression style trade war [14], but as Dartmouth professor of economics Doug Irwin demonstrates, they will also add billions in unnecessary construction costs to otherwise cost-effective infrastructure projects [15].

The Cost

Obama’s Trillion Dollar Debt Plan is larger than the combined total cost of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan [16]. The borrowing Obama’s plan requires will shatter post-WW II records for deficit spending. It will more than double the previous debt to G.D.P ratio record [17] set in the 1980s. If all families were asked to equally shoulder the burden of the $819 billion stimulus package, it would be like asking them to take on an amount of debt equivalent to what they spend on food, clothing, and health care or most of what they spend on shelter for an entire year [18]. By even the most optimistic estimates debt-ratios of this size will drive interest rates up by 0.7 and 1.1 percentage points [19]. Such increases in interest rates would significantly weaken the economy further and delay for many months any hope of significant recovery.

For What?
According to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimates, Obama’s Trillion Dollar Debt Plan will only create 1.2 million to 3.6 million jobs [20], and most of the jobs would only replace those lost to the recession. It is not just conservatives that see fundamental problems with Obama’s Trillion Dollar Debt Plan. President Bill Clinton’s budget director, Alice Rivlin told the Senate [21] there are two risks with including all of the left’s permanent spending priorities in what is supposed to be an economic stimulus bill: “One is that money will be wasted because the investment elements were not carefully crafted. The other is that it will be harder to return to fiscal discipline as the economy recovers if the longer run spending is not offset by reductions or new revenues.”

As we showed above, this bill is rife with “not carefully crafted” spending that will be wasted. And the leftist elements in control of Congress have no track record of reducing spending. By their own criteria, Obama’s Trillion Dollar Debt Plan is destined to fail. But if you don’t trust us, here is what John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1942 [22]:

Organized public works, at home and abroad, may be the right cure for a chronic tendency to a deficiency of effective demand. But they are not capable of sufficiently rapid organization (and above all cannot be reversed or undone at a later date), to be the most serviceable instrument for the prevention of the trade cycle.

Quick Hits:


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2009/02/03/morning-bell-a-trillion-dollar-bridge-to-nowhere/

URLs in this post:

[1] Trillion Dollar Debt Plan: http://www.foundry.org/2009/01/28/morning-bell-the-pelosi-obama-reid-trillion-dollar-debt-plan/

[2] Gallup Poll: http://www.gallup.com/poll/114097/Americans-Support-Stimulus-Major-Changes.aspx

[3] even Democratic Senators: http://www.foundry.org/2009/01/30/democratic-senator-the-so-called-stimulus/

[4] Only $137 billion of the $884 billion in the bill is is devoted to infrastructure spending: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0209/18331.html

[5] permanently redistribute spending and power away from the private sector and toward government: http://econlog.econlib.org//archives/2009/01/talking_points_1.html

[6] education: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Education/bg2233.cfm

[7] health care: http://www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/wm2235.cfm

[8] $1 billion for Amtrak, $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts; $400 million for global warming research; $2.4 billion for clean coal; $650 million for even more digital TV conversion coupons; $600 million for new government cars; $7 billion for modernizing federal buildings; $150 million for the Smithsonian;: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123310466514522309.html

[9] $345 million for Agriculture Department computers; $870 million to combat the flu; $400 million to fight STDs: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090130/ap_on_an/stimulus_really__analysis/print

[10] $3 billion for after school programs; $1 billion Community Oriented Policing Services: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090202/ap_on_go_pr_wh/stimulus_police

[11] report last month by Pew : http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2009-02-02-internet-access_N.htm

[12] a $9 billion cyberbridge to nowhere.: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/us/politics/03broadband.html?ref=todayspaper

[13] even though the district has 15 vacant school buildings, a large surplus of property and no plans for new construction.: http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/38762217.html

[14] a Great Depression style trade war: http://www.foundry.org/2009/02/02/the-left-is-the-real-party-of-hoover/

[15] add billions in unnecessary construction costs to otherwise cost-effective infrastructure projects: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/opinion/01irwin.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

[16] larger than the combined total cost of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/28/AR2009012800196.html

[17] more than double the previous debt to G.D.P ratio record: http://www.foundry.org/2009/01/29/unprecedented-debt/

[18] debt equivalent to what they spend on food, clothing, and health care or most of what they spend on shelter for an entire year: http://www.foundry.org/2009/01/29/the-trillion-dollar-debt-plan-vs-the-new-deal/

[19] will drive interest rates up by 0.7 and 1.1 percentage points: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Economy/wm2257.cfm

[20] only create 1.2 million to 3.6 million jobs: http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2009-02-02-stimulus-jobs_N.htm

[21] told the Senate: http://www.brookings.edu/testimony/2009/0127_budget_rivlin.aspx?emc=lm&m=221840&l=40&v=9

[22] John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1942: http://thinkmarkets.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/keynes-as-public-works-skeptic/

[23] New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/opinion/03tue1.html?ref=todayspaper

[24] Mr. Obama has proved willing to compromise: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/us/politics/03lobby.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

[25] imploring their leadership in the House to change controversial rules: http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/0209/50_Dems_ask_Pelosi_for_more_imput_.html

[26] make it much easier for workers to unionize: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0209/18328.html

[27] biased the mainstream media: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/us/politics/03reporters.html?partner=rss&emc=rss%20Ex-Journalists%E2%80%99%20New%20Jobs%20Fuel%20Debate%20on%20Favoritism

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