'50 Destimulating Facts'


Over at NRO, Stephen Spruiell & Kevin Williamson have gone to all the trouble of listing 50 items in the stimulus bill that have nothing to do with stimulating the economy and everything to do with realizing the dreams of liberals going back 40 years.

And the guys are not just talking about a couple of hundred million here or there. They've taken a buzzsaw to this monstrosity and trimmed about $400 billion from it.

Now there may be legitimate quibbles with some of their targets but generally, I'd have to say they are spot on. I especially like how they call out the Democrats for getting the tax cuts wrong -  the Democrats actually cutting where it will do the least bit of good.

Just one list will give you a flavor of their handiwork (give these guys a job at OMB please):

The easiest targets in the stimulus bill are the ones that were clearly thrown in as a sop to one liberal cause or another, even though the proposed spending would have little to no stimulative effect. The National Endowment for the Arts, for example, is in line for $50 million, increasing its total budget by a third. The unemployed can fill their days attending abstract-film festivals and sitar concerts.

Then there are the usual welfare-expansion programs that sound nice but repeatedly fail cost-benefit analyses. The bill provides $380 million to set up a rainy-day fund for a nutrition program that serves low-income women and children, and $300 million for grants to combat violence against women. Laudable goals, perhaps, but where’s the economic stimulus? And the bill would double the amount spent on federal child-care subsidies. Brian Riedl, a budget expert with the Heritage Foundation, quips, “Maybe it’s to help future Obama cabinet secretaries, so that they don’t have to pay taxes on their nannies.”

Perhaps spending $6 billion on university building projects will put some unemployed construction workers to work, but how does a $15 billion expansion of the Pell Grant program meet the standard of “temporary, timely, and targeted”? Another provision would allocate an extra $1.2 billion to a “youth” summer-jobs program—and increase the age-eligibility limit from 21 to 24. Federal job-training programs—despite a long track record of failure—come in for $4 billion total in additional funding through the stimulus.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a liberal wish list if it didn’t include something for ACORN, and sure enough, there is $5.2 billion for community-development block grants and “neighborhood stabilization activities,” which ACORN is eligible to apply for. Finally, the bill allocates $650 million for activities related to the switch from analog to digital TV, including $90 million to educate “vulnerable populations” that they need to go out and get their converter boxes or lose their TV signals. Obviously, this is stimulative stuff: Any economist will tell you that you can’t get higher productivity and economic growth without access to reruns of Family Feud.

Total savings just from the porkiest provisions of the bill: around $34 billion.

A sensible stimulus with more focused tax cuts and selective, targeted infrastructure spending is the Republican alternative that Obama and the Democrats didn't even look at. The question should be continually asked of this measure; is it a bill to stimulate the economy or to reward Democratic constituencies?

NRO makes the answer to that question pretty plain.