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It’s All So… Stimulating… [Updated, 02/16]

Just thought I’d throw out a quick link to this post at Reason detailing some of the lovely stuff that’s included in the handout stimulus bill that passed the Senate today.

No doubt some will argue that each and every one of the things included in the bill involves a transfer of money from one party to another and so constitutes a “stimulation” of the economy, but the bulk of this stuff looks like plain old fashioned pork.

Added thought: Is anyone else getting tired of legislators justifying every law and every massive spending increase with the word “green”?


According to the Register, Californian Senator and all-around waste of space Diane Feinstein is trying to use the stimulus bill to sneak through language that would let ISPs snoop on network traffic, a clear violation of privacy*:

Obama’s stimulus bill sets aside between $6bn and $9bn for expanding American broadband into rural areas, and Senator Feinstein hopes to augment this Broadband Technology Opportunities Program so that it “allows for reasonable network management practices such as deterring unlawful activity, including child pornography and copyright infringement.”

Despite Obama’s laughable promises to clean up Washington, the massive handouts he’s promising are encouraging every lobby to try to get in on the action. Moreover, the President’s apocalyptic doomsaying, promising “catastrophe” unless the legislation is rammed through Congress at as fast as possible, is making it that much easier for utter rubbish like this to get attached to ostensible “stimulus” items and avoid any real scrutiny.

The whole thing is a monumental screw.

* Never mind that there are good arguments why spending money on broadband is a waste of time in the first place.

(via Slashdot)


Slashdot is reporting that Feinstein’s amendment apparently did not make the final cut, a conclusion that was reached by searching for her name in the final text of the legislation, rather than trying to actually read through the whole document.

Speaking of which, one wonders how many of the people who voted for it actually read it. My bet’s on “not many.”

  1. Spikey says:

    Great Post! I am loving it. Will come back again – taking your feeds also. 🙂

  2. nike urbanism duk says:

    Someone needs to switch to decaf.

  3. Matt says:

    Hahahahaha! Oh dear…

  4. Vincent says:

    Proust, you insensitive clod!

  5. Proust says:

    Hello, Matt. Your post, it interests me. It reminds me of a few things. Let me tell you about them:

    For a long time I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out my candle, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say

  6. T says:

    Jesus Christ! This is a blog comments section, not an unabridged translation of the works of Goethe.

  7. Matt says:

    @Zach “The Universe Reduces to the Arena” Vishanoff: Thank you for your crazy ranting. I think it’s made me frame the issue in a new light. This bill, though, has little to do with cap and trade or the triple bottom line. But I need to move on.

    @Scott: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You raise some excellent points relating to this issue. I think I should probably clarify some of my argument, it’s clear I didn’t effectively communicate my view.


  8. Scott says:

    Matt I’m going to disagree with you here on several points.

    – One main problem with your assertion is that this spending bill will increase productivity, spending by citizens, etc. etc. I’m going to argue that your assumption here is off-base because 90% of this bill is being used on subsidizing government actions. Very little of it is actually going to be seen by the citizenry. Most especially in many of the federally linked jobs (ie DHS, Federal employees driving hybrid cars, “greener” federal buildings). Billion and million dollar projects like that aren’t helping citizens in the long run and it certainly won’t increase our GDP, which is (I think) the main problem people have this bill. It’s really only improving government, which long term is fine but short term isn’t going to get people into the work place and it isn’t going to get people to spend money.

    As for your break-down I’ll respond with my own:
    -$5.5 billion for making federal buildings

  9. nike urbanism duk says:

    Sustainability “green” is a polite way of saying we are going to privatize the government(and launder money with carbontrading/trust “benchmarks”and related shenaningans). There is a good read called “Corporate Urbanism and Sustainability” that covers it a bit. If someone starts lecturing you on the “triple bottom line” slam your door in their face-they are a Amway salesman. It brings back memories of the article some goofball wrote about the new UO green arena stopping global warming. What a piece of work that was. Obama is tanking the stock market with his infantile scare tactics about the whole country going permanently back to the stone ages. He does not know what he is doing.

  10. Matt says:

    Ugggh. So I read this article, and the problems don’t just stop! While I’m not sure the stimulus is the best approach to this problem either, I can’t help but disagree with the economic grounding argued here in. The jist of the argument as I understand it (correct if wrong):
    “If we pursue the stimulus, it will result in shorter-run growth, primarily in output. But in the longer-run, increased bond holdings from soaring deficits will crowd out private investment, which will subsequently stifle growth.”

    I mean, it would be way easier at this point to stimulate growth if we had not been already so astronomically spending into deficit under the Bush Adminstration, I’ll allow us to ignore context for the moment to say this: in order to stimulate growth in the shorter-run, we must increase spending, sadly. The other option is increased job loss, which in a free-market context would be fine, as it allows us to “clean the rot out,” but we don’t live in a free market really and we won’t allow people to die/lose their homes in the recessionary fallout, which would be necessary to really clear the system naturally. Moreover, they won’t let us let the market do that. Any politician proposing the free market solution of allowing the collapse to play out is political history, so that option is simply off the table.

    So, what kind of spending should we do? TARPS-style? Or a stimulus that lowers government spending in the longer-run, thereby potentially helping to offset the deficits? Again, while I’m not a huge fan of the stimulus, clearly the latter:
    -$5.5 billion for making federal buildings “green” (including $448 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters) – first number cited by Reason. In addition to immediately increasing output, this measure will reduce government spending long-run by decreasing government spending on energy and making government workers more productive (people work better in “green” buildings, statistically)
    -$198 million to design and furnish the DHS headquarters – yeah, I’d rather just get rid of DHS and have their functions go back to the Defense Department, rather than having two “Defense” Departments. But if we do support a Homeland Security Department, they will need an office building, sorry.
    – $300 million more for hybrid and electric cars for federal employees (see below) – again, this is intended to reduce long-run energy costs. We could contrast this to buying bad assets from banks, which will not pay for themselves…
    – $412 million for Centers for Disease Control headquarters – maybe not immediately necessary, but eventually required. The CDC, um, controls disease. I think most people find this to be a worthwhile use of government resources.
    – $800 million for constructing Federal Prison System buildings and facilities – yeah, if we ended drug prohibition, we could reduce this cost, but we’re not doing that, so here ya go.

    Okay, so maybe I’m picking and choosing the spending that seems more worthwhile. What about some of the more frivolous items?
    – $125 million for the Washington, D.C. sewer system – this system discharges sewage into the area around DC, which is disproportionately occupied by federal employees, who have government health plans. The long-run logic is that this cost will be offset by increased savings in government healthcare related to environmental hazards. This is difficult to quantify, but highly plausible. And again, this is some .015% of the bill.
    – $110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems – this increases the efficiency of the agency, reducing administrative costs, over the long run.
    – $60 million for Arlington National Cemetery – okay, this might not be necessary. Why is it in the bill? Because in this time of war no one is going to say we should be spending less money honoring our veterans. Filibustering/trying to cut this item is a PR disaster.
    -$1.2 billion for summer jobs for youth – First off, the youth are disproportionately unemployed. But this measure is a temporary move to put people to work that reduces crime (and therefore, government enforcement costs) while improving the effectiveness of education (and therefore, reducing education costs). I don’t think this measure is the best one on the bill, but like, seriously, it’s not really “wasteful” in the sense that the $12 billion (ten times this expenditure) that literally disappeared in Iraq was.
    -$500 million for state and local fire stations – Oh god forbid we help out local governments, cash-strapped by the recession, in protecting public safety. What waste!
    – $65 million for watershed rehabilitation – Need I really explain the economic benefits of this? It increases fishery stocks long-run while reducing the costs of filtering drinking water intakes. Finally, it also reduces healthcare costs to the economy overall, while improving agricultural yields. Need I remind us of the $1 billion in Federal aid money for Katrina that disappeared to fraud? I mean, if we need to do spending to increase employment, it’s smarter to invest it in things like watershed rehab, which has the potential to increase long-term economic growth by direct action, versus TARPS-style “giving it away so fast we can’t track it.”

    So do I agree with the Obama plan per se? No. I don’t think it’s as effective as it needs to be. Do I think the bill is waste-free? Certainly not. This is Congress we’re talking about. But I’m getting increasingly frustrated by these lists of “frivolous” spending that seem to ignore the long-term economic infrastructure benefits. And not to mention the hypocrisy… To see Sam Brownback on C-SPAN decrying $500 million for energy conservation which will pay for itself when he also voted to support Ted Stevens’s “bridge to nowhere” two years ago just drives me nuts. But the hypocrisy doesn’t negate the argument, while the cost-effectiveness of many of the measures often does.


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