Spending Even a Keynesian Could Hate
Stimulus spending booster Robert Samuelson calls the Pork Package "deeply disappointing." Read:
Big projects take time. They're included in the stimulus because Obama and Democratic congressional leaders are using the legislation to advance many political priorities instead of just spurring the economy. At his news conference, Obama argued (inaccurately) that the two goals don't conflict. Consider, he said, the retrofitting of federal buildings to make them more energy efficient. "We're creating jobs immediately," he said.
Yes -- but not many. The stimulus package includes $5.5 billion for overhauling federal buildings. The CBO estimates that only 23 percent of that would be spent in 2009 and 2010.
Worse, the economic impact of the stimulus is already smaller than advertised. The package includes an obscure tax provision: a "patch" for the alternative minimum tax (AMT). This protects many middle-class Americans against higher taxes and, on paper, adds $85 billion of "stimulus" in 2009 and 2010. One problem: "It's not stimulus," says Len Burman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. "(Congress was) going to do it anyway. They do it every year." Strip out the AMT patch, and the stimulus drops to about $700 billion, with almost 30 percent spent after 2010.
It's not a stimulus. It's pork, pure and simple.