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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Stimulus: Death by a Thousand Pages

Later today, President Obama will officially ring in his first major legislative victory. Yet, while he may have won a major legislative victory in passing this stimulus, he has also opened himself up to losing a much larger war. The reality is that almost no one, including the President himself, knows exactly what is inside all of the 1000 plus pages of this bill. Yet, despite its massive price tag, he will sign it into law anyway. Once he does, he will open himself up to criticism for each and every page that is in it.

The worst kind of story for any politician is one in which no single event or detail itself hurts, but rather the culmination of each is what ultimately kills them. That's what President Bush faced from 2004-2006 with the Iraq War. It wasn't any specific deaths of American service men and women. Rather, it was that everyday there were new deaths and new destruction. The phenomenon is known as the drip factor. Everyday, you hear something else that makes you sour. You can't defend against that because it becomes the overwhelming theme of the story that is the story itself.

That is likely what will happen with this stimulus. Since passing, we have gotten a taste of what this will be like. First, the Republicans were nowhere to be found in crafting or negotiating the bill. I was on with minority Whip Eric Cantor at 7 PM on Thursday, and he had no details. That's because he was totally shut out of any of the final negotiations. Then, the final bill was not sent out until 11 PM on Thursday. Even so, the bill was voted on at noon the next day. As such, no one had a chance to read it before voting on it. Then, we found out that Nancy Pelosi and six other Democrats had a junket planned in Europe that was leaving later that afternoon. All of this contributes to a corrupt process.

Then, we found out that Harry Reid secured a last minute $8 billion project to build a high speed rail line between Disney Land and Las Vegas. We've also found out that a portion of the bill will reverse Bill Clinton's landmark welfare reform legislation. We've also found out that the protectionist Buy American clause is still in the bill.

Yet, it is the neverending pork projects that will ultimately serve as the main drip factor. While no one ever did have a chance to read the final bill, that doesn't mean that in the weeks and months ahead there won't be enterprising journalists, pundits, and activists that aren't going to go through this thing with a fine tooth comb looking for anything embarrassing. Here are some of the individual pieces of pork featured by the site No Stimulus.com.

Billions in outright pork and wasteful spending:$300 million for buying cars for federal bureaucrats;$3.7 billion for something called “green research” on military bases;$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts; $2 billion for “neighborhood stabilization” to radical groups like ACORN;$1.3 billion for Amtrak; $10 million for"urban canals"(I'm not making this up); etc.

Of course, each of these so called drips will be most effective if the bill is seen as not working. Yet, it becomes a give and take dynamic. The more negativity that comes out about the bill over the next weeks and months, the more it will begin to be viewed as not working. Groups like Nostimulus.com have made their reputation in battling this stimulus. Both Senator Jim Demint and Governor Mark Sanford have seen their profile explode on the national scene as staunch opponents of this stimulus. As such, it behooves both of them to continue to act as a sort of watchdog. Of course, talk radio would like nothing more than to beat this stimulus into submission for the next year. All of these people and groups, and many more, have a vested interest in exposing whateve hidden embarrassments are in this bill. All of them will make their own concerted efforts to find each and every nugget of embarrassment and bring it to the public. As they do, the stimulus will begin to bring President Obama political death by the thousand pages.

1 comment:

frog said...

Mike,

Great blog. I wonder how the administration will proceed on "saving the planet in four years" with this albatross yoked to the economy. People are waking up to the utter foolishness of all of it. Some of us anyway.

Eric