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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.

The Two Percenters

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Feb 03, 2009 at 19:12:11 PM MST


Did anybody catch Dennis Rehberg's impassioned opposition to the recent House stimulus bill?

And yet, while Montanans are watching our economy keel over, the Pelosi-Obey "so-called" Stimulus Package that the House passed on Wednesday was packed full of new government programs, long-term spending and even a facelift for the grass on the National Mall.

Ultimately, it did more to stimulate the government than to stimulate the economy.

Rehberg said he wanted a stimulus package to be "timely, targeted, temporary, and transparent," and claimed that it didn't meet any of those criteria. Of course, it is all those things; the most efficient means to creating jobs and jump starting the economy is spending for unemployment and food stamps, spending that helps people keep their heads above water, and spending that's most likely to be directly injected into the economy in a meaningful way as soon as it's given out. Then there's the infrastructure investment, which puts money into workers' hands and returns tangible, useful roads, bridges, and rail to taxpayers.

But let's get past that for a moment. Let's say the stimulus bill is wasteful and ideological. Okay. So. What would the Republicans have trimmed from the bill?

Yesterday, the House Republican caucus released a list of "what they call wasteful provisions in the Senate version of the nearly $900 billion stimulus bill that is being debated." It is, to be sure, a pretty long list, identifying 32 specific spending measures that the GOP considers either wasteful, lacking stimulative value, or both.

Now, putting aside the merit of the provisions, I went ahead and did some back-of-the-envelope math, adding up the grand total of all of the measures in question. I came up with a total of roughly $18.7 billion....
While $18.7 billion is a serious chunk of change, it's also just 2% of the $884.5 billion package under consideration in the Senate.

In other words, after House Republicans carefully combed through the bill, searching for anything they could deem "wasteful," and finding 32 specific measures they found offensive, the GOP lawmakers are still comfortable with 98% of the Democrats' bill.

Better yet, check out the list. Among the expeditures the Republicans object to include purchases of computers for public community colleges, Amtrak funding, FBI salaries, renovation of public buildings, remediation of lead-based paint, etc & co. In short, the list contains mostly infrastructure projects; few, if any, long-term left-based "ideological" projects.

(For the record, I'd like to see the $2 billion for the "zero-emission" Illinois coal plant to be scratched, too. Same with the $246 million tax break for movie producers.)

So...let me get this straight. The projects the House Republicans object to...are mostly infrastructure projects...some of which would even pay for themselves (like buying hybrid vehicles for federal employees)...and comprise only 2 percent of the bill's entire proposed expenditure? And this is why all of the Representatives voted it down?

Yes, it was a political stunt. It has to be. There's no ideology in the programs marked by the GOP, there's none of what Rehberg, for one, claims was in the bill and should be hacked away. There's no long-term, social programs here. Politics. An attempt to divide the electorate, build an opposition bloc to, if not the overwhelmingly popular President Obama, than his allies in the Congress.

But, given the fact that 2% of the proposed bill seems easy enough to compromise, and given the stimulus bill's national popularity, look for some "compromises," a billion or two shaved here and there, and more Republicans supporting this thing, then claiming victory at having stood up to Obama and the Congressional Democrats, and "won."

In fact, when it comes back to the House after changes made in the Senate, expect Rehberg to vote for the bill, still touting its imperfection, but saying we need to do something now for the economy, even if imperfect. (After all, Montana is getting a lot of money in this thing...) That's how Rehberg operates. We've been down this road before with Real ID, CHIP and Mother's Day. You know the drill: Dennis Rehberg votes down a bill, trash talks it, then when he realizes people are paying attention, he turns around, supports the bill and claims he was for it all along.

Heck, he'll probably even use my patented, extra-handy "Double Backflip" template the next time you hear from him on the subject...

Jay Stevens :: The Two Percenters
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The Two Percenters | 16 comments
same old story... (0.00 / 0)
conservative obfuscation is strictly a stall tactic to make sure america fails. if they drag their feet, america fails, obama fails and their guy gets elected in four years.that is their tactic...

the middle class is wise to conservative tricks. they will lose more seats in two years for tactics like this. hypocrits who are more than willing to prolong the suffering of american workers just to achieve their political goals of paving the way for the wealthy and the elite.

they are scared to death of unions. they are scared to death that obama will succeed. it would be the death of conservative republicanism. notice i said CONSERVATIVE republicans, not reasonable republicans. getting rid of these pack of rabid greedy power-crazed jackals would do the country and the republican party good.  

United we stand, divided we fall.

power to the polite people!


Defending increased government spending (0.00 / 0)
Your article is actually defending additional government spending when the federal budget is already in deficit territory. Up is down and left is right.

I recently lost my job and my wife took a pay cut. We are not looking for ways to increase our spending. The federal government already has many redundant and unneeded organizations (8 of these are just for providing health care to people who can't afford it). How about pairing those bureaucracies down and using their ever increasing budgets to fund the worthwhile infrastructure projects?

How does purchasing hybrid vehicles for federal employees pay for itself? Your premise is flawed. Purchasing any car is putting money in a depreciating asset. And the gasoline savings given the current economic REALITY does not even justify the extra expense over the vehicle's projected lifespan. How about we get rid of government provided vehicles altogether? Let the employees use their personal cars and reimburse them for mileage like the rest of America.


Government spending... (0.00 / 0)
I am advocating government spending...during a recession. Absolutely. One of the worst things to do on the cusp of a recession is to cut spending. Ask Hoover.

After this thing is done, we'll have to balance the budget, of course.

That's why, personally, I advocate spending on short-term, one-time projects, like building bridges, schools, rail, making repairs to mass transit, etc. Pump money into the economy, create jobs, get something meaningful and useful back.

And consider: when we withdraw from Iraq, we'll be saving about $12 billion...a month.

As for government vehicles: some agencies require their own cars. Like the Forest Service. Or the FBI... and if you think gas is going to stay this cheap, I've got a bridge to sell you.


[ Parent ]
I have to agree with you (0.00 / 0)
here Jay.  It has to be cut a great deal more than 2%.  

At this point, and until they show me something a little more, I have no confidence in most of the Republican Legislators in Wash. and even less (haha) in the Democrats.

I'm surprised actually about you wanting the zero emission coal plant scratched though.  Why aren't you for that?

And are you on record then for wanting the Stimulus pared down, or is this more a commentary on the Republicans?


- Keeping the Left honest since 2001


what i'm for... (0.00 / 0)
Sydney! Haven't you been following this blog? I'm not a fan of "clean" coal. There's no such thing. It's basically a multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

In a previous post, I also decried the long-term highway projects that lard this bill. Projects that don't do anything to fix current infrastructure or reduce the congestion on the roads. Interesting that none of these projects made the GOP cutting board.

So, yeah, I think there's lots of stuff that could be shed.

And I admit I don't know how much we should spend right now -- no one knows. Is $800 billion enough? Too much? Will it work?

Ultimately, if I were doing this thing, I'd do only infrastructure repair and investment into spending that'll go right back into the economy. Unemployment benefit expansion, say. I'd scrap the wasteful highway projects, tax cuts for upper income brackets and corporations. And the infrastructure I'd build would have efficiency and usability foremost in mind. Mass transit...subsidies for alternative energy...etc...

But, then, politically my bill's not feasible. The way these *sshats in DC work -- both GOP and Dem -- is that everybody needs a taste of the action. Thus, the highway projects.


[ Parent ]
I admit, (0.00 / 0)
That I follow Left in the West but do not know all of the nuances of your opinion on energy, hence the question.

So basically we're going to have to disagree on the coal issue.

- Keeping the Left honest since 2001


[ Parent ]
Fair enough... (0.00 / 0)
Coal-to-liquid was a pet peeve of mine for awhile, and I spoke out against Tester and Schweitzer on the issue quite a bit.

Here's a couple of older posts on the issue.

Basically, coal-to-liquid is (a) dependent on sequestration, which is mostly theoretical now, (b) massively expensive and inefficient (~ $4 billion per plant), so any project would have to be underwritten by government spending, (c) requires a sh*tload of water (something like 3 parts water per 1 part finished product), something we don't have much of in Montana, and (d) would produce, at best, a few million barrels of diesel a year.

The only reason I could see building a plant would be for national security purposes, to build up a reserve of fuel for the military that's not reliant on the Middle East. And if we build a plant, it probably should be in Central Washington, where's there's water and the type of shale that lends itself to the best kind of sequestration.

Why is everybody talking about production of energy, anyway? The quickest and cheapest way to the reduction of consumption and towards energy independence lies in efficiency, on the consumer side.

A plan, say, to provide low-interest government loans to weatherize houses would not only repay the government investment (bringing in revenue), it'd save the consumer money and reduce energy consumption.

And there are other ways to earn revenue from state lands other than digging up coal. Raising cheat grass for cellulosic ethanol, say, or harnessing the wind and shipping the energy out of state (which relies on power lines).

Coal is poison. Coal has enormous external costs that you don't see on your energy bill, but you see in taxes and health care costs and fire fighting expenditures; and coal may be the undoing of Montana's agricultural base.  


[ Parent ]
Simple, Jay (0.00 / 0)
"Why is everybody talking about production of energy, anyway?"

That's where the profits are.

There's no profit to be made off of conservation (other than the initial investment to get there). So in a world where resources=money=power, it's pretty simple.

Build a better lightbulb, or fight wars in the Middle East. Who gets the glory and the money?


[ Parent ]
Whoa, now (0.00 / 0)
Looking at the list of "wasteful" spending, I can see where some of it might look a little silly at first glance (tax breaks for movie film?). But looking a little closer, there's a lot on there that doesn't seem "wasteful" at all in the real world, like the construction of DHS buildings, and repairs to the D.C. sewer systems, or spending on AMTRAK, the Smithsonian, and Mississippi River flood control systems.

These so-called "wasteful" projects require contractors and construction crews, heavy equipment purchases & steel production (to name a few areas that would fire up our factories and put people back to work).

I could even argue that the purchase of hybrid cars isn't the big "waste" that it's portrayed to be in the long term. (We're way past worrying about depreciation now: if the economy continues to tank, the only 'asset' I'm going to be concerned with is a big enough supply of amoxicillin for barter.)

Once again, increased demand for hybrid cars = more factory orders for components = more mining of raw materials = more jobs. Don't forget that an increase in hybrid car sales would also stimulate more research projects into better hybrid technology, while also reducing our dependence on foreign fossil fuels (good economically; good strategically). That's not what I would call "wasteful".

On another note: yesterday my newsrag ran a story about the GOPer plot to lower taxes, including cutting the bottom tax rate from 10% to 5%, on earnings up to @ $8800.00 per year. 'Luckily', my son is in that demographic, and he had just gotten his W-2 from work. So, we figured it out, and it came to a whopping $2.53 per week for him!  Wow! Whatever will he do to spend this GOP largesse?

That's today's GOP for you.

I think wolverine hit the nail on the head in the first post.  Unfortunately, the GOP may not be economic masters, but thay are certainly masters at whipping up the mighty media Wurlitzer to spin the narrative in their own direction.


$8800 per year? (0.00 / 0)
Is your son in high school?

To gross $8800 over a calendar year working 40 hour work-weeks, one ends up making around $4.25 and hour.  Just that.


[ Parent ]
Once again (0.00 / 0)
You miss the point completely.  The point of the stimulus package has nothing to do with what an individual earns.  It has to do with what we all have to spend.  That's what will get the economy moving, consumerism.  If deb's kid is in high school, so what?  The point is to give him better prospects such that when he leaves high school, he will have a job that makes him the money to spend on consumer product, and not be unemployed.  Do you actually think that offering this guy an additional $130 a year will matter?  Never mind, of course you do.

Then again, he could always overstate his credentials ...

I hear at times that there's money in that, if you don't get caught.  What do you think, Rusty?


[ Parent ]
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