All the Statism that is Fit to Promote

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True to form, the New York Times is praising the $800+ billion monstrosity in language that truly is laughable. Let examine some of the gems from the newspaper that gave us Walter Duranty and Jayson Blair.

The signature achievement of the $819 billion stimulus and recovery bill, passed on Wednesday by the House, is that it directs most of its resources where they would do the most good to stimulate the economy.

The bill is large because this deep recession is getting deeper, and the recovery, when it comes, is expected to be slow. President Obama and the lawmakers who wrote the bill are to be commended for not letting size distort the substance. Contrary to the claims of Republican opponents that the bill indiscriminately rains money down, the amounts and categories of spending have, for the most part, been calculated carefully and chosen well.

Surely they jest. But, alas, these guys are serious.

Aid to states also is well thought out. The single biggest chunk of spending — $87 billion for states to shore up Medicaid programs — would allow them to provide care to the neediest, whose ranks have been swelled by the deepening recession. Equally important, by taking on more of the states’ Medicaid burden, the federal government frees up states to continue providing other services that would have had to have been cut.

One of those vulnerable areas, states’ education budgets, is the main target of another $79 billion. The money would help to prevent lapses in early childhood education, which often cannot be made up later. It would also prevent cuts in the curriculum and in extracurricular activities in grade schools through college — while averting big layoffs in a sector that is among the largest employers in many states.

After jobless benefits, food stamps and aid to states, the most effective stimulus is to get money directly to low- and middle-income Americans, who are likely to spend it quickly, boosting demand. The package expands the Earned Income Tax Credit temporarily to raise the pay of the working poor. There also is money to allow low-income workers to qualify for a tax credit of up to $1,000 per child, a break currently denied them. These are good tax policy and good stimulus.

What is hilarious is that these people actually believe they are saying intelligent things. In their minds, this is “free” money. Hey, Paul Krugman endorses it, and he is a Nobel Prize winner, so that means he is correct, right?

But here is the biggest howler in a series of howlers:

Republicans’ objections are mostly ideological. They worry, in particular, that subsidizing health insurance may be a step toward universal coverage. They may be right. But that is an argument for another day. The government must act urgently to protect the vulnerable from what is shaping up to be the worst recession in modern history and to boost the economy at a time when consumer and business spending is slack. Besides, a lamentably large amount of money goes to business tax cuts dear to Republicans. That is folly as stimulus but more than enough for political compromise.

That falls into the “Yeah, right,” category. Republicans all of a sudden opposing government spending because of ideology? The Republicans, who gave us the biggest increase in government spending since the Great Society? That is the biggest joke of all.

10:03 pm on January 29, 2009