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Friday, February 6, 2009

Numbers: Why President Obama is Losing the Stimulus P.R. Battle

As the poll numbers sink on the stimulus there is no widespread analysis of where it went wrong. Politico has one such analysis and Steve Kornacki has another. That's just a sample and you can find such analysis everywhere. In my opinion though, the reason that support is sinking like a lead balloon comes down to one simple concept, numbers.

Whenever you find a blistering attack on the stimulus, you also find a plethora of numbers, price tags even, accompanying the attack. This National Review article is a great example. I won't quote the article but in it, the authors put together a laundry list of spending that they see as wasteful and next to each item is its price tag. Whether it's $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, or $4 billion for Pell Grants, or $650 million for digital tv coupons, each specific piece of spending has a dollar amount attached.

I must confess that I am a numbers person and so maybe that's why it affects me as it does. That said, numbers are a very powerful thing. In this case, it lays out in black and white just how wasteful the spending is. Rather than saying there is a lot of pork, the public sees for themselves just how much pork there is.

In defending the stimulus, President Obama uses no such numbers. We don't know how many highways will be built. We don't know how many schools will be built. We don't know how many people will get access to the internet. We don't know anything because the President is not putting a number onto anything.

That is a losing argument. When one side quantifies the waste and turns it into a number, or in this case an endless stream of numbers, while the other side gives us vague assurances that things will work...which argument do you think will be more effective? President Obama is losing the P.R. war because the other side has quantified the waste, while he can only give vague assurances that things will be fine.


Anonymous said...

Thousands of people are elated about a minute amount of $$ for beekeeping. Ignorance is deadly. Have you not learned yet that bees pollinate fully a third of our food? Have you not learned that we are killing our food producers with pesticides and not allowing them a normal life cycle because there are too few bees to pollinate our food sources nationwide. GET INFORMED.

mike volpe said...

It's statements like that that allow a bloated government. There are lots of worthy causes, but that doesn't mean the government should spend money on them. Certainly, the government shouldn't spend money worthy causes as part of a stimulus.

People aren't getting upset about the beekeepers per se. I can assure you that if it were merely the beekeepers no one would be upset. The reality is that there are pet projects all over the place.

nimh said...

Actually, the supposed "honeybee insurance" turns out to be:

"in fact, a disaster insurance program for all livestock producers. Beekeepers obviously would be minor beneficiaries next to, say, cattle ranchers, so it's a tad bit dishonest to label the whole program "honeybee insurance.""

Not just that - "the provision simply continues a program enacted by Congress last year".

And here's the kicker: Mitch McConnell, the Republican Minority Leader in the Senate who now derided the so-called "honeybee insurance" as "nonsense" ... voted for the program last year. Twice: the first time Congress adopted it, and the second time to override the veto GWB slapped on it.