February 21, 2009
The House passed the stimulus package conference report without a single Republican vote, and then the Senate approved the measure, 61-38. The final procedural hurdle was the Nelson-Collins amendment, named for the moderate Nebraska Democrat, Ben, and the moderate Maine Republican, Susan. Never was the phrase "the devil's in the details" more appropriate. I have pored through the Washington Post's analysis as well as their superb graphical summary of the bill, I have looked at a spreadsheet of the line-item funding provisions that was posted on the readthestimulus.org Web site, and I have even looked at the administration's new recovery.gov Web site. The latter at least strives for "Accountability and Transparency," a noble ideal. Of course, it's uncertain how well they can live up to that standard when the money is being spread all across the country to hundreds of government entities at the state and local level. Conclusion: No one really knows what's in there. It's one gigantic crap shoot, and even Vice President Joe Biden said that it might only have a 70 percent chance of achieving its goals.
I'm obviously very skeptical of the stimulus package, but now that it's the law of the land, I think we have to go along with it and give it a chance to work. What makes me worried is that Obama and others on the liberal Democratic side occasionally drop hints that this is only the first step. I saw a TV ad thanking Virginia's Democratic senators Webb and Warner for their support of the SCHIP program (see Jan. 28), saying that this is a big step forward, but more is expected. That's exactly what I feared.
One interesting aspect is that some Republican governors say they will reject Federal stimulus money, or at least parts of it. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal objects to increases in unemployment benefits, and I heartily salute him for taking this courageous but unpopular stand. Whenever the government subsidizes something, whether illicit pregnancy or unemployment, the usual net effect is that more of such negative phenomena results. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour made strong statements at the the governor's conference today as well. Although I'm glad that nearly all Republican leaders have joined in voicing their strong objections to this over-reaching measure, I also worry that they aren't working hard enough to offer an alternative. I'm sure that we will soon hear of Republican policy alternatives, and hopefully enough fiscally conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats will make common cause on this issue before the American economic system is transformed into something resembling socialism.
Steve Kijak attended a rally against the stimulus package organized by Americans for Prosperity in Richmond on Wednesday.
Much like Tim Geithner and Tom Daschle , it seems that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has failed to pay her full share of taxes, but in this case it's really a question of how much travel expense reimbursement she and her family are entitled to. She is said to spend as much time in her home town of Wasilla as in the state capital Juneau, and there are a lot of airline miles between them. See Wall Street Journal. To me it seems strange that a governor would not take up full-time residence near where he or she carries out his or her official duties.