Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama's "First Test" by David Brooks

(Picture of David Obey and John Murtha of U.S. House Appropriations Committee)

David Brooks, token moderate conservative columnist for the New York Times, has a column today on the alleged "stimulus package" the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representative are developing in the Appropriations Committee to get the United States out of the recession. He writes:

There is a strong case to be made for a short, sharp stimulus package to restrain the collapse of the American economy. This would involve big, simple programs with immediate impact — a temporary cut in the payroll tax, big aid to the states, expanded unemployment insurance and food stamps.

There’s also a very strong case to be made for long-term government reform. America could fundamentally rethink its infrastructure policies........

But the stimulus bill emerging in the House of Representatives does neither of these things. The bill marked up Wednesday in the Appropriations Committee is a muddled mixture of short-term stimulus haste and long-term spending commitments. It is an unholy marriage that manages to combine the worst of each approach — rushed short-term planning with expensive long-term fiscal impact.

(To read the entire column click on the title for a link)

Brooks goes on to list three failings of the bill:

1. It lacks "strategic thinking" It's "a sloppy profusion of 152 different appropriations — off-the-shelf ideas that mostly create costlier versions of the status quo."

2. It will take a long time to work. "A study by the Congressional Budget Office found that less than half of the money for infrastructure and discretionary programs would be spent by Oct. 1, 2010." Thus, it will take a long time to help the economy.

3. It has no sunset provisions. Thus, when the economy improves there will still be all these spending programs remaining in place."They will contribute to the coming $2 trillion deficits. Worse, these new structures, and the lobbyists they attract, will create more impediments to the innovation that Obama may seek in the years ahead."

Brooks calls it a "Christmas Tree" for every special interest.
On Tuesday, President Obama was inaugurated and vowed a new era. On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee met and showed the old era was very much alive.

Also on the New York Times web site there is a column called "The Conversation" "Talking between Columns" where David Brooks has a "Conversation" with Gail Collins. After watching the House Appropriations Committee deliberations on C-SPAN for four hours Brooks gives a colorful description of Appropriations Chairman David Obey the Democrat who runs the committee:

Chairman David Obey is a very compelling figure, who would be a judge on “American Idol” if this were hell. He runs the committee like Captain Ahab in a bad mood. Some lesser mortal would offer an amendment to the $800 billion stimulus bill, or whatever it is this moment. Then Obey would allot 5 minutes to himself to explain why the amendment is a tremendously stupid idea and all the lemmings (excuse me, elected public officials) would vote the thing down and make the chairman happy. At one point a Democrat from Florida had the temerity to say that maybe an amendment had merit, at which point Obey turned green, grew into a 400-pound muscular hulk and ripped down the columns of the Rayburn building

No, not the Rayburn building!