The first test of the new Administration’s clout on Capitol Hill ended earlier this evening with a party line vote on the much talked about stimulus bill. All week long we have heard about bipartisanship and working together. Despite the talk, there was no way to overcome the fundamental philosophical differences that exist between our two political parties.
Today the House voted 244-188 (with 11 Democrats joining 177 Republicans in opposing the bill) to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1, also known as the Stimulus Bill.
Everyone agrees that there is a problem with our economy; however, the fundamental differences between the parties precluded a bipartisan solution to the problem. In one 15-minute vote today, the House of Representatives spent the equivalent of all the revenue the U.S. Government collects in one single year.
That is an astonishing fact, but pales in comparison to some of the representations made in support of the legislation. For instance, proponents of the bill state that the legislation will create or save 3 million jobs. But at what cost? With a price tag of $825 billion, that means American taxpayers are spending about $275,000 for each new job created.
I try hard to look at all sides of these complex debates and I have tried to analyze this matter as best I can without looking at the talking points and sound bites. No matter what your political affiliation, today’s actions should cause you concern.
All this week and last, GOP efforts to include some of their amendments in the legislation were ignored. GOP supporters called for more tax relief and despite the criticisms, everyone, including the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (known as CBO), acknowledged that tax cuts will impact the economy more quickly than big government spending.
Perhaps more to the point, analysis by President Obama’s senior economic advisors also demonstrated that tax cuts provide a bigger bang for the buck. Earlier today, when the methods and economic models developed by the President’s top advisors were applied to a non-partisan estimate of the tax relief provided by an alternate measure to H.R. 1, it demonstrated that the Republican substitute could create 6.2 million jobs over the next two years, or twice as many jobs for half the cost to the American taxpayer.
Despite these facts – not sound bites – all efforts to include these concepts in the final product were ignored and dismissed. If you are reading this, I am sure we do not agree on everything, but I hope and trust that we all can agree that some of the “stimulative” spending in this bill is not truly stimulative.
As a matter of fact, I would like to challenge someone to demonstrate how funding for climate change research, federal building repair, and AmeriCorps, is stimulative. What about the $335 million appropriation for sexually transmitted disease education and prevention programs? How exactly does that stimulate the economy?
The bill also includes $650 million in coupons for Digital TV converter boxes and $137 billion, with a “b,” to create 32 new government programs. There’s $1 billion for the consistently deficit-ridden Amtrak; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; and $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, which is known for generating controversy, not jobs.
Spending obviously must be part of the formula, but spending on this level, with no real hope of job creation, is not stimulus. As a matter of fact, each of the 152 earmarks in this bill should have been considered in the normal and regular legislative process of Congress, not in this large initiative, which was supposed to be a true economic stimulus package.
Tonight President Obama stated that he was disappointed that the legislation did not garner any bipartisan support and continued by saying that he hopes the final product that ultimately comes to his desk is a better product. But back on Capitol Hill, where the new era of bipartisanship was summarily crushed this week, the stimulus bill was written based on the wish list of every living interest group in America. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, “We won the election. We wrote the bill.”
The Democrats did win, but as I said back in November, it is easy to talk about governing – it is much harder to actually govern. Good leaders, those that secure their place in history, don’t keep reminding you that they won. They lead. The leadership in Congress vowed to work in a bipartisan manner for what was best for the United States. By any account, they have failed miserably to live up to the promises of reform they made to the American voter.
Tonight, I hope for the sake of all of us that President Obama gets his wish for a better product, but I fear that the majority’s arrogance will prevail – even over the objections of the President. And if that happens, the Republicans should let the Democrats take all of the credit for today’s vote, and the ramifications.