LESSONS LEARNED #78: “It’s a dishonest politician that sneaks sneaky legislation into a bill.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 11th, 2011

The Obama Stimulus Bill was mostly Democrat Pork and Earmarks

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was a huge stimulus bill to create jobs.  And put people back to work.  It cost about $800 billion.  And it didn’t work.  Some say it didn’t work because it wasn’t big enough.  Others say it didn’t work because it wasn’t stimulus but rather a 40-year Democrat wish list of pet projects.  Which the Democrats could finally enact having control of the House, the Senate and the White House for the first time in a long time.  And they took control of this bill.  As Nancy Pelosi said, “We won the election. We wrote the bill.”

So what’s in the bill?  Well, President Obama said it would contain no pork.  No earmarks.  Just spending that would create ‘or save’ jobs.  Like infrastructure projects.  Rebuilding America’s roads and bridges.  But according to the Wall Street Journal, “Some $30 billion, or less than 5% of the spending in the bill, is for fixing bridges or other highway projects.”  They further note that of all the spending in the bill little would actually create jobs.  About “12 cents of every $1…even many of these projects aren’t likely to help the economy immediately.”

Take high-speed rail, for example.  The Washington Post noted the bill included “$8 billion for high-speed rail projects, for example, including money that could benefit a controversial proposal for a magnetic-levitation rail line between Disneyland, in California, and Las Vegas…”  One thing about big rail projects, they don’t stimulate.  Building railroads takes a long, long time.  The higher the speed, the longer the time.  Because high-speed trains have more costly infrastructure.  And dedicated track.  With no grade crossings.  And before you build anything you have to do environmental impact studies.  Then survey the entire route.  Then, once you have a proposed route, you can begin the engineering.  It could be years before any ground is broken. 

If any ground is broken.  Because currently high-speed rail is all pie in the sky.  Only two lines to date operate at a profit.  One in Japan (Tokyo to Osaka line).  The other in France (Paris to Lyon line).  All others require government subsidies in one form or another.  Because these are costly to build.  And costly to maintain.  So this is stimulus that won’t stimulate.  But it will set the stage for greater future government spending.  Making it more pork than stimulus.  Snuck into the bill by the Senate.  When the House bill went to the Senate.  For their turn to steal from the treasury.

Only Schools with Union Teachers did well in Stimulus Bill

The stimulus bill also included $90 billion for the Department of Education.  But language in the bill restricted the use of that money.  Quoting from the Wall Street Journal, “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.””

In other words, only schools with union teachers may use this money.  Dues-paying union teachers.  And the teachers unions support Democrat candidates.  Which makes this not quite stimulus.  But politics.  Profitable politics at that.  As some of this stimulus money will make it back to Democrat coffers thanks to those union dues.

According to Certification Map, education received some $90 billion in stimulus money.  And their website breaks down the spending:

  • $44.5 billion in aid to local school districts to prevent layoffs and cutbacks, with flexibility to use the funds for school modernization and repair (State Equalization Fund)
  • $15.6 billion to increase Pell Grants from $4,731 to $5,350
  • $13 billion for low-income public school children
  • $12.2 billion for IDEA special education
  • $2.1 billion for Head Start
  • $2 billion for childcare services
  • $650 million for educational technology
  • $300 million for increased teacher salaries
  • $250 million for states to analyze student performance
  • $200 million to support working college students
  • $70 million for the education of homeless children

For a bill not containing any pork or earmarks these look a lot like pork and earmarks.  I mean, they sure ain’t ‘shovel-ready let’s rebuild the infrastructure jobs’ like we were led to believe.  Sure, they may ‘invest in our future’ so we may ‘win the future’, but it doesn’t create jobs like a stimulus bill is supposed to do. 

This isn’t stimulus.  These are just Democrat pet projects.  Added to the bill in a moment of crisis.  To take advantage of the crisis.  To get the things they’ve been unable to get during the normal legislative process.

Never let a Serious Crisis go to Waste when Writing a Stimulus Bill

When you look at the bill this is what most of it is.  Just a bunch of Democrat pet projects.  Passed when they still had control of both houses of Congress and the White House.  And a delicious crisis.  For as Rahm Emanuel said, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.  What I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before.” 

Sure, they’ve always hidden things in bills before.  But rarely does $800 billion of free spending come along.  They weren’t going to attach this pork to a bill.  This pork was the bill.  And it included a little bit of everything.  Including green energy.  Green Chip Stocks list this spending on their website:

  • $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research
  • $1 billion energy efficiency programs including energy-efficient appliances and trucks and buses that run on alternative fuel
  • $4.5 billion to boost the energy efficiency of federal buildings
  • $6.3 billion for energy efficiency and conservation grants
  • $5 billion to weatherize old buildings
  • $2.3 billion in tax credits for energy efficiency technology manufacturers

Last time I looked ‘research’ was not a ‘shovel ready’ project.  Neither are alternative fuel programs.  Or federal renovation projects.  Or the government granting process.  (It takes forever and a day for construction projects to start when there is federal money involved.)  And tax credits only help a few people work so they can build things that won’t sell at market prices.

Again, not stimulus.  But pork.  Earmarks.  Despite everything they told us. They weren’t going to create jobs and fix the economy.  They were settling their political accounts.

Democrats took Advantage of a Crisis to sneak Pet Projects into Law

This shameless Democrat spending spree (remember what Nancy Pelosi said – “We won the election. We wrote the bill”) helped to push the deficit into record territory.  Which caused S&P to downgrade our credit.  All because the Democrats took advantage of a crisis to sneak a lot of their pet projects into law.

It just goes to show you that you shouldn’t trust politicians.  And, based on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, you should especially not trust Democrats.  For they are quite sneaky.  And often don’t do as they say.  For the stimulus bill wasn’t going to have any pork or earmarks.  But in reality about 88% of the bill was nothing but pork and earmarks.  Which is a lot more than none.

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