Biggest Boondoggle in American History

We are living in a historical moment that in some ways represents uncharted territory. In other respects, however, the current moment is a return to a simpler and clearer past, when the hallmark of conservatism was opposition to extravagant spending boondoggles proposed by liberals. For a variety of reasons the fiscal battle lines have been blurred in recent years, but these days we are back to the paradigm that held sway decades ago.

Yesterday, Minority Leader John Boehner sent out an email on the House Democrats’ ridiculous $825 billion “stimulus” bill. It is worth reproducing in its entirety:

A Dozen Fun Facts About the House Democrats’ Massive Spending Bill

1. The House Democrats’ bill will cost each and every household $6,700 additional debt, paid for by our children and grandchildren.

2. The total cost of this one piece of legislation is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government.

3. President-elect Obama has said that his proposed stimulus legislation will create or save three million jobs. This means that this legislation will spend about $275,000 per job. The average household income in the U.S. is $50,000 a year.

4. The House Democrats’ bill provides enough spending – $825 billion – to give every man, woman, and child in America $2,700.

5. $825 billion is enough to give every person living in poverty in the U.S. $22,000.

6. $825 billion is enough to give every person in Ohio $72,000.

7. Although the House Democrats’ proposal has been billed as a transportation and infrastructure investment package, in actuality only $30 billion of the bill – or three percent – is for road and highway spending. A recent study from the Congressional Budget Office said that only 25 percent of infrastructure dollars can be spent in the first year, making the one year total less than $7 billion for infrastructure.

8. Much of the funding within the House Democrats’ proposal will go to programs that already have large, unexpended balances. For example, the bill provides $1 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which already have $16 billion on hand. And, this year, Congress has plans to rescind $9 billion in highway funding that the states have not yet used.

9. In 1993, the unemployment rate was virtually the same as the rate today (around seven percent). Yet, then-President Clinton’s proposed stimulus legislation ONLY contained $16 billion in spending.

10. Here are just a few of the programs and projects that have been included in the House Democrats’ proposal:

· $650 million for digital TV coupons.
· $6 billion for colleges/universities – many which have billion dollar endowments.
· $166 billion in direct aid to states – many of which have failed to budget wisely.
· $50 million in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts.
· $44 million for repairs to U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters.
· $200 million for the National Mall, including grass planting.
· $400 million for “National Treasures.”

11. Almost one-third of the so called tax relief in the House Democrats’ bill is spending in disguise, meaning that true tax relief makes up only 24 percent of the total package – not the 40 percent that President-elect Obama had requested.

12. $825 billion is just the beginning – many Capitol Hill Democrats want to spend even more taxpayer dollars on their “stimulus” plan.

Preference for a smaller, more limited federal government is probably the single most universal feature of all strands of modern conservatism. Yet, as we have noted before, conservatives have failed to have much impact on the steadily increasing federal budget. This graph, which shows federal spending from 1965 to the present in 2007 dollars, pretty much says it all; click to enlarge:

Federal Spending21.jpg

Old-style conservatives have been discouraged by the movement’s apparent failure to have any significant impact on the inexorable growth of government. Note, however, the uptick at the end of the graph. If the Democrats get their way over the next couple of years, we may see what happens when conservatives are entirely out of power in Washington: an explosion in federal spending and regulatory reach that threatens the foundation of our free enterprise system. If that doesn’t energize and unify conservatives, nothing will.

Deficit spending is a subject on which the parties have almost switched roles. Traditionally it was the Democrats who were Keynesians (or just liked to spend money), and Republicans who warned against deficits. That began to change in the Reagan administration, and, as federal deficits failed to produce the adverse consequences, e.g. high interest rates, that had been predicted, opposition to deficits in both parties withered. If anything, Democrats have tended to don the green eyeshades in recent years, albeit not with much sincerity.

But what Congressional Democrats are now planning, by way of deficit spending, dwarfs anything in our post-World War II history, as this graph illustrates; click to enlarge:


It seems inconceivable that the deficits now contemplated by the Democrats will not have adverse effects, starting with inflation. Whatever those ill effects turn out to be, the Democrats will own them, just as they will own the tax increases that seem inevitable in the wake of the current profligacy.

We appear to be returning, in short, to an era more like the one in which the modern conservative movement was born. If there was ever a time when America needed an effective conservative opposition, that time is now.

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