Op-Ed: An Unstimulating Stimulus Package
February 10, 2009
Washington - Last week we heard some very discouraging news from some of the nation’s top employers. Over 60,000 jobs were lost, U.S. retail sales posted the first drop in annual sales, and more bank failures were announced. The bad news seems to keep coming with no end in sight. No one refutes the severity of our current situation; but what is the best way to get us out of this crisis?
President Obama and Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate worked for months to craft a massive spending package that, in their minds, will pull us off the precipitous decline and cure all of our woes. Herein lies the difference between small government, free-market conservatives and big government liberals. I could not in good conscious support borrowing and spending nearly a trillion dollars on a hope and a promise that we will rebound at a faster rate.
The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan accounting agency for Congress, scored the Pelosi-Obey spending package at nearly $825 billion. Over the next 10 years alone, the borrowed $825 billion will exceed more than $1.1 trillion when adding interest to pay for it. I can remember the days before I was elected to serve in Washington, not too long ago, when hundreds of millions of dollars seemed like a tremendous amount of money; trillions were inconceivable. However, my colleagues are throwing the numbers around as if it is Monopoly money. It was also announced that only $136 billion of the $355 billion will be spent by October 1, 2010. The remainder will come in future years, long after economists predict the recession will have ended. Money that will not be spent beyond the next year does nothing to jumpstart our economy.
My problem with the spending package was not only in the massive cost, but also in where the money is spent. Roughly half of the Pelosi-Obey spending package funds non-stimulative social programs within the jurisdiction of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. For example, the original language of the bill set aside $462 million for equipment, construction, and renovation of facilities at the Centers for Disease Control and $3 billion for prevention & wellness programs, including $335 million for STD education and prevention. Regardless of our country’s need for these programs, there is no question that they are not necessary to revive our economy.
There are some productive aspects of this legislation; anytime you spend nearly a trillion dollars there will be an impact. Rural Texas should benefit from spending nearly $6 billion in broadband deployment in rural areas. There is also valuable infrastructure spending that will accelerate necessary transportation projects, including $30 billion for highway construction and $10 billion for rail projects to reduce traffic congestion.
There is also a portion of the legislation that includes tax breaks for individuals and small businesses. There are increases in the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. The bill creates a $1,000 refundable tax credit for working families and includes a three-year extension of the renewable energy production tax credit. While these tax provisions are a step in the right direction, conservatives would prefer to see more money geared to fast-acting tax relief rather than slow and wasteful government spending.
I cosponsored the Republican alternative to the Pelosi-Obey spending bill. The Republican proposal would require that any new spending geared at stimulating the economy should be paid for by reducing other government spending. We cannot borrow and spend our way back to a growing economy, but we can offer incentives to small businesses and individuals that will put money back in their pockets to instill confidence in our economy and create new jobs.
Ronald Reagan once said: “Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we've ever known.” How can I, in good faith, leave the next generation with this giant mess to clean up? We are not only borrowing $825 billion that we do not have now, we are selfishly stripping money away from our children and grandchildren that they should have available to address their issues. Needless to say, I opposed this massive expansion of our federal government, and will continue to oppose legislation that will further burden our children by borrowing money that will never be paid back to fix a temporary problem.