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Is the "Stimulus Bill" the Patriot Act of the Obama Administration?:
It's October 2001, and a new President has declared a crisis that demands immediate action. The old policies of the past have failed, he announces, and it is time for far-reaching action that will expand the government's power to combat the serious threats against the Nation. Time is of the essence, he declares: We must act now.

  The opposing party tries to stop the President's plan. They complain that the President and his minions in Congress are acting too fast and going too far. Sure, some kind of change is needed. But the President and his allies are going too far, they complain, passing a "wish list" to capitalize on the public's fear of the crisis continuing.

  Even worse, no one seems to know exactly what is in the massive bill. Senators and Representatives in the minority party complain that they never even had time read it! The bill is hundreds of pages long, and it was impossible for anyone to read all that legislation in time for the vote.

  The President is dismissive about their complaints, however. The opponents are stuck in the old discredited way of thinking: Change is needed, and quickly. The bill quickly passes, and it becomes known as the USA Patriot Act.

  Now fast forward. It's February 2009, and a new President has declared a crisis that demands immediate action. The old policies of the past have failed, he announces, and it is time for far-reaching action that will expand the government's power to combat the serious threats against the Nation. Time is of the essence, he declares: We must act now.

  The opposing party tries to stop the President's plan. They complain that the President and his minions in Congress are acting too fast and going too far. Sure, some kind of change is needed. But the President and his allies are going too far, they complain, passing a "wish list" to capitalize on the public's fear of the crisis continuing.

  Even worse, no one seems to know exactly what is in the massive bill. Senators and Representatives in the minority party complain that they never even had time to read it! The bill is hundreds of pages long, and it was impossible for anyone to read all that legislation in time for the vote.

  The President is dismissive about their complaints, however. The opponents are stuck in the old discredited way of thinking: Change is needed, and quickly. The bill quickly passes, and it becomes known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — aka the "stimulus bill."
Mr. Bingley (www):
The Bill is over a thousand pages long. There is no way these people should vote on something they haven't read. It is a scandal.
2.13.2009 1:49pm
Constantin:
Biggest difference is that only one senator voted against the Patriot Act. The minority party must not have been too bothered by it.
2.13.2009 1:52pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
Before the House or Senate votes on a bill its sponsor should have to stand up and read it, aloud.
2.13.2009 1:53pm
Fingerprint File:
The Patriot Act passed by 357-66 in the House and 98-1 in the Senate. If they are so comparable, I'm sure we'll see similar numbers on the stimulus bill, right?
2.13.2009 1:53pm
hawkins:

The Bill is over a thousand pages long. There is no way these people should vote on something they haven't read. It is a scandal.


This presumes that they usually know exactly what is in a bill before voting on it.
2.13.2009 1:54pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Another difference, the stimulus bill /is/ business as usual, just ramped up in scale. $1 trillion spending bills will now become the norm.
2.13.2009 1:56pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
This presumes that they usually know exactly what is in a bill before voting on it.



That's the real scandal, here, isn't it. It's a disgrace.
2.13.2009 1:58pm
smitty1e:
The Patriot Act didn't bankrupt the country.
Hopefully the same thing shall be said of this current excretion.
2.13.2009 1:59pm
gerbilsbite:
Umm, the opposing party in 2001 controlled the freakin' Senate--if "the opposing party trie[d] to stop" the plan, it would have been dead and buried.

And have you looked at what the final tally of the vote was?

As a Democrat, it still pisses me off to this day how incorrect your statement is: they should have fought that bill tooth-and-nail until they had a chance to give some input.
2.13.2009 2:09pm
Bruce:
Orin, there's a substantive difference here, which is that the stimulus bill is a spending bill, which has direct effects for maybe a few years out. The Patriot Act made permanent changes to the law (although thankfully some parts were given 5-year expiration dates).
2.13.2009 2:11pm
Jeff R.:
I'm with the others here. Legislators have no business voting for anything they haven't read and comprehended.

I'd be in favor of any number of Constitutional Amendments to address this. (A word limit on all future bills is the most elegant solution, with strong anti-circumvention to stop them from passing 200 20-page bills in succession that don't activate until all are made law or the likes. But there's also 'require each legislator to swear on pain of perjury that they have personally read and comprehend the bill at issue before voting, and frequently apply pop quizzes before voting [with all abstensions to be counted as 'no' votes, of course]', and the previously mentioned 'require all bills to be read before the vote' play, which I'd amend to require attendence and eject until after the vote anyone caught sleeping or blackberrying during the reading...
2.13.2009 2:12pm
pintler:
One thing that hasn't Changed: "Never let a crisis go to waste".
2.13.2009 2:14pm
OrinKerr:
Bruce,

There isn't just one substantive difference: There are dozens. Some cut one way, others cut the other way. (Really fascinating to see readers grab on to one difference and run with it, though.) I would think the differences you point out indicate that the stimulus is the more dramatic and far-reaching legislation: It's long long term effects seem much greater than the Patriot Act, which was not only quite modest in effect (even if it was terribly reported on as being far-reaching), but it had a 5 year sunset on parts of it. In contrast, the extra debt we're taking on with the stimulus bill will be with us for decades, it seems to me.
2.13.2009 2:16pm
Anon21:
Give the GOP credit for one thing: it's an effective opposition party. It is good at opposing presidential initiatives and maintaining party discipline. The Democrats, at least the post-Reagan (Tip O'Neill) Democrats, are an abysmal opposition party. They seem to believe their job is essentially doing what the President demands.

Unfortunately for Republicans, they have awful policies. When they get a chance at putting those policies into practice, as they had an almost untrammeled ability to do for at least 4 years, but more like 6, the result is disaster. The voters recognized that and got rid of them. Now their opposition is essentially beside the point; all the House Republicans voted against the stimulus bill, and no one really cared. Elections have consequences.

All this is to say that the fact that, contra Orin, the Patriot Act passed with only token opposition from the Democrats says less about the merits of the bill than it does about the merits (or lack thereof) of the Democratic Party. (Which merits would, in my view, be much enhanced if they stopped running scared from every new conservative blowhard who strolls into Washington.) And the fact that the stimulus bill is attracting such vigorous opposition from the Republicans says less about the bill than it does about Republicans' propensity to always and everywhere oppose things that Democrats support.
2.13.2009 2:19pm
Anon321:
It's interesting to note that now, whenever politicians say, "We need to act immeditately in the fact of this crisis. Time is of the essence," the public response tends to be, "Wait, we've heard that before -- if you're saying that we have to act fast, it must be because you're trying to railroad us, relying on the specter of imminent harm to deter proper deliberation."

That may well be a good attitude for the public to take. But it's noteworthy that the Bush administration's reliance on the we-must-act-now-or-else argument has made people skeptical of any such reference to imminent threats. Without taking any stance on the merits of the stimulus, I'd just note that some threats really are imminent and do require immediate action; that a past president relied on that fact to take reprehensible action shouldn't cause us to overreact by rejecting all similar arguments in the future.
2.13.2009 2:19pm
guest845 (mail):
When the federal government says "we must act immediately!" then it's time to go slow. Any truth to the rumor that Naomi Klein is writing a sequel on how the federal government is hyping shock to pass laws that benefit the federal government?
2.13.2009 2:19pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

Biggest difference is that only one senator voted against the Patriot Act. The minority party must not have been too bothered by it.



Three other differences:

The opposition party was the majority party in the Senate and part of the drafting of the Patriot Act, not so with the Porkapalooza bill.

The Patriot Act included sunset provisions that forced/enabled Congress to revisit it with cooler heads and decide if they wanted the federal government to continue having these powers. The Porkapalooza bill has no sunset provisions (that I'm aware of) and is instead using a short-term crisis to get Congress to commit to long-term and perhaps permanent changes.

The provisions of the Patriot Act were actually directly related to giving the federal government the tools to fight terrorism whereas the Porkapalooza bill uses the cover of a short-term Keynsian stimulus as cover for a laundry list of other agenda items that could and should be debated seperately.
2.13.2009 2:28pm
hawkins:
Thorley -

As you used the term "Porkapalooza," I figure you're a good person to ask. I dont quite follow how this bill is "pork." As the stated purpose of the bill is to spend money for the sake of spending money, it seems to lack the dishonesty associated with pork.
2.13.2009 2:48pm
A Law Dawg:
The deal provides $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, for example, including money that could benefit a controversial proposal for a magnetic-levitation rail line between Disneyland, in California, and Las Vegas, a project favored by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). The 311-mph train could make the trip from Sin City to Tomorrowland in less than two hours, according to backers. Washington Post
2.13.2009 2:51pm
A Law Dawg:
The previous post was in response to Hawkins, but I posted too early. It contains just one example of the pork in the bill.
2.13.2009 2:52pm
Mike& (mail):
Yes.
2.13.2009 2:59pm
Cardozo'd (www):
The opposition party was the majority party in the Senate and part of the drafting of the Patriot Act, not so with the Porkapalooza bill.
WRONG

The provisions of the Patriot Act were actually directly related to giving the federal government the tools to fight terrorism whereas the Porkapalooza bill uses the cover of a short-term Keynsian stimulus as cover for a laundry list of other agenda items that could and should be debated seperately. PARTISAN - NOT INVOLVED IN THE ARGUMENT

The Patriot Act didn't bankrupt the country. MORALLY?

I'm with the others here. Legislators have no business voting for anything they haven't read and comprehended. HAVE YOU EVER WORKED IN A LEGISLATURE? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA THE SHEER AMOUNT OF BILLS AND PAGES IN THOSE BILLS? CONGRESS WOULD GET DONE 1/50 OF WHAT THEY "GET DONE" NOW IF THEY HAD TO "READ AND COMPREHEND" EVERYTHING.

They seem to believe their job is essentially doing what the President demands. IT'S TRUE DEMS ARE TERRIBLE OPPOSITION, BUT REPS BELIEVE YOU SHOULD DO WHAT THE PRESIDENT WANTS WHEN IT'S A REPUB ONLY.

Biggest difference is that only one senator voted against the Patriot Act. The minority party must not have been too bothered by it. SO YOU EITHER THINK IT WAS A BAD BILL WITH A BAD SET OF DEMOCRATS OR A GOOD BILL WITH A GOOD SET OF DEMOCRATS...WHICH IS IT?

Before the House or Senate votes on a bill its sponsor should have to stand up and read it, aloud. YES AND THEY'LL VOTE ON 10 BILLS A YEAR BECAUSE OF THIS...IF YOU WANT THEM TO DO ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO REALIZE THEY CAN'T READ EVERYTHING.


One thing none of you seem to mention is the fact that the Patriot act was passed quickly and probably didn't need to. We probably weren't going to be attacked any time in the next two weeks after it was written and even if we were, I doubt anything in the Patriot would have helped prevent something already in motion.

As for the stimulus, any minute things could seriously go south...every day several thousand more people lose their jobs...every day the market gets a little worse....THIS ACTUALLY HAD TO BE DONE RIGHT AWAY BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE DAY DIGS A DEEPER AND DEEPER HOLE.
2.13.2009 3:01pm
Terrivus:
Another difference between the two: Whatever the faults of the Patriot Act, (a) one could easily define whether it was successful -- no new terrorist attacks on American soil; and (b) it achieved its desired effect. The stimulus package is in a different boat altogether.
2.13.2009 3:04pm
hawkins:
Law Dawg -

Thanks for the cite. I still see a difference though. Building that train, however ill advised it may be, will get the money into the economy and create jobs. Its not as if the purpose of the bill is to improve methods of transportation, the purpose is to create jobs. There may be more worthwhile projects that would also create jobs, but the primary purpose will still be met.
2.13.2009 3:05pm
Gillick:
Hawkins,
And to your specific question, I've certainly never heard "spend for the sake of spending" as the purpose. We don't have enough money for such. I believe the goal was "targeted" and "effective," i.e. most bang for your buck. We have enough data from our own country, Japan, and others, to have some idea of what does and does not affect the economy. Bridge to nowhere helps that area for 10 years, and then turns it into a ghost town with a bridge no one uses. Education spending, a bridge where it's needed, etc. might actually produce GDP dividends in the future.
2.13.2009 3:06pm
anon123:
I am more troubled by a bill that takes away individual freedoms than one that creates jobs and other programs.
2.13.2009 3:06pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
As you used the term "Porkapalooza," I figure you're a good person to ask. I dont quite follow how this bill is "pork." As the stated purpose of the bill is to spend money for the sake of spending money, it seems to lack the dishonesty associated with pork.


Most people assume that the point of the bill is to spend money for the sake of creating jobs / stimulating the economy, at least if anyone believes what the President says on the matter. As always, Coburn has a big list of spending that is rather related to earmarking, which suggests that the matter is either non-stimulative or not the most efficient manner (in either case, it could be competitively bid upon). $850 million for Amtrak might keep some jobs, but it's not really a good way to keep or stimulate the economy.
2.13.2009 3:07pm
Anon321:
The previous post was in response to Hawkins, but I posted too early. It contains just one example of the pork in the bill.

I suppose that I'm also slightly confused about this being labeled "pork." The essence of the bill is to kickstart the economy by spending lots of money. That money will be spent on projects. Not surprisingly, those projects will probably be ones favored by politicians. (I can't imagine how there could be a massive spending bill without the money going to projects favored by legislators; after all, the funding itself tends to prove that the legislators favor the projects, right?)

I tend to think of "pork" as something extraneous or tangential to a bill's purpose, that gets thrown in to win votes or because legislators think they can sneak it by without people noticing. But, as far as I understand it, it has to be extraneous to qualify as pork -- as in, the bill has a certain purpose, but is separately larded with completely unrelated pork. If the purpose of the bill is to spend money on projects, the money designated for certain projects shouldn't be called pork. Right? Or am I reading "pork" too narrowly?
2.13.2009 3:07pm
Snaphappy:
Terrivus: No, no, no. Ever since 9/11, I have sung myself to sleep with "Row, row, row your boat." Since there have been no new terrorist attacks since then, it is my bedtime routine that has prevented the terrorist attacks, not the Patriot Act. As proof, I offer that I started my singing on 9/11 itself. The Patriot Act was not signed for some time after that and thus, unlike my singing, cannot explain the lack of terrorist attacks since 9/11. Duh.
2.13.2009 3:11pm
A Law Dawg:
Hawkins and Anon321:

I consider that project to be pork because it is plainly chosen for purely political reasons, not because it is actually a good idea. The purpose of the bill is to spend money on things that will help even when the crisis is over. Building a train from Disneyland to Vegas is actively harmful because of its opportunity cost.
2.13.2009 3:13pm
Gillick:

I understand it, it has to be extraneous to qualify as pork -- as in, the bill has a certain purpose, but is separately larded with completely unrelated pork. If the purpose of the bill is to spend money on projects, the money designated for certain projects shouldn't be called pork. Right?


I think your definition of pork is right, but your definition of the bill is off. It's a stimulus, not a how fast can we get a trillion more dollars in debt on the books bill. Things that are "pet projects" of local interest that do not stimulate, or stimulate in a reasonably effective way, are pork to a stimulus bill, even if still spending money.
2.13.2009 3:13pm
Kevin R (mail):
Cardozo'd: It's to the left of your A key. Also, you say that Congress would "get done" 1/50th of what they do now like that's a bad thing.

Anon321: I'm guessing that in the opinion of those calling it a pork bill, the entire bill is extraneous and tangential spending.
2.13.2009 3:14pm
Cardozo'd (www):
$850 million for Amtrak might keep some jobs, but it's not really a good way to keep or stimulate the economy. Keeping jobs does stimulate the economy when compared to the situation where those people lose their jobs. If we're losing jobs at this rate, a job saved is a job earned.
2.13.2009 3:15pm
Michael Ejercito (mail) (www):

All this is to say that the fact that, contra Orin, the Patriot Act passed with only token opposition from the Democrats says less about the merits of the bill than it does about the merits (or lack thereof) of the Democratic Party

What, specifically, was wrong with the Patriot Act?
2.13.2009 3:15pm
Snaphappy:
Terrivus: On a more serious note, even if your measure were valid, why wouldn't we be able to tell, 8 years from now, whether the stimulus resulted in saving the economy? If there is no depression within 8 years, the stimulus will have achieved its goals. That's at least as valid as your suggestion that "no new terrorist attacks" (other than the D.C. sniper and anthrax scare) validates the Patriot Act.

But there are much better measures: unemployment rates, consumer confidence, and the DJIA spring immediately to mind.
2.13.2009 3:17pm
Cardozo'd (www):
All this is to say that the fact that, contra Orin, the Patriot Act passed with only token opposition from the Democrats says less about the merits of the bill than it does about the merits (or lack thereof) of the Democratic Party


What, specifically, was wrong with the Patriot Act?


Reading comprehension is hard. He was discussing how good an opposition party he is.

Kevin R - THAT WAS DONE ON PURPOSE TO DIFFERENTIATE
2.13.2009 3:18pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Correction:

He was discussing how good an opposition party [the Democratic Party] is.
2.13.2009 3:19pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
terrivus:

Whatever the faults of the Patriot Act, (a) one could easily define whether it was successful -- no new terrorist attacks on American soil


The WTC was first hit about a month after Clinton took office. We then went through the rest of Clinton's term (almost 8 years) without suffering another domestic attack (unless you want to claim that Timothy McVeigh is part of the vast Islamofascist conspiracy). And Clinton managed to do it without bankrupting us by spending money we didn't have on a war we didn't need.

So how did Clinton keep us safe? By playing saxophone and eating hamburgers. And Bush harmed us by failing to do those things. Isn't it interesting that the worst domestic terrorist attack in our history didn't happen until after the saxophone left the White House?

You might want to put some thought into "Lisa Simpson's Tiger-Repellant Rock."

I see that snaphappy also explained this.
2.13.2009 3:21pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Building a train from Disneyland to Vegas is actively harmful because of its opportunity cost.

Explain?
2.13.2009 3:22pm
Snaphappy:
I think a southern passenger railroad is a great idea. Railroads are more fuel efficient than cars or airplaines, and currently it's not possible to travel across the country by rail unless you're in the north. If it were faster than driving, so much the better. Can someone explain the downside to this project?
2.13.2009 3:22pm
MartyH (mail):
Cardozo'd-

The Dems had the majority. It was a tie until Jeffords became an Independent iN June 2001 and caucused with the Dems. Tax cheat Daschle was majority leader.
2.13.2009 3:22pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Cardozo'd-

The Dems had the majority. It was a tie until Jeffords became an Independent iN June 2001 and caucused with the Dems. Tax cheat Daschle was majority leader.


Putting aside the fact that Jeffords only pledged to vote with dems on procedural issues...I was more objecting to the involved in drafting statement.
2.13.2009 3:25pm
Cardozo'd (www):
It was a tie

And it wasn't a tie. Cheney gave them the deciding vote.
2.13.2009 3:27pm
Gilbert (mail):
The most important difference is that this stimulus bill was on the minds of the voters when they made their pick between Democrat and Republican administration of the country. The Patriot Act wasn't even a twinkle in the eye of the most full throated Bush supporters.

I think that makes the two bills completely incomparable.
2.13.2009 3:28pm
Sarcastro (www):
The important thing is to assign blame to the people not on your side.
2.13.2009 3:32pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Building a train from Disneyland to Vegas is actively harmful because of its opportunity cost.

Building something such as a train does not only create construction jobs, as a lot of other projects will and possibly do better...but it will also create long lasting jobs. Once a train is built it has to be maintained, run both on board and administratively, etc... And that doesn't even take into account the incredible environmental, planning, congestion, workforce efficiency, business efficiency and business opportunities that will result.
2.13.2009 3:33pm
RPT (mail):
Read the history. The Patriot Act was part of the runup hype to the Iraq War, and that debacle was as full of waste as anything could be and will ultimately be the largest spending program ever, far in excess of the current legislation.

The common theme today is the barely restrained Republican anticipation for both another terrorist attack and a continued worsening of the economy so that they can campaign on the "I told you so" platform in 2010. Or at least that is the message coming from the current GOP leader, Rush Limbaugh aka Porkulus (one of the best self-designations in recent history).
2.13.2009 3:33pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
snap:

Can someone explain the downside to this project?


Companies that sell cars and gasoline are going to make less money. And if the project is enough of a success to inspire similar projects, that problem can get much worse. So for certain people, the "downside" is very real.

By the way, notice how easy it is to make the project sound frivolous by saying "Disneyland" instead of saying 'Anaheim, a city near LA.'
2.13.2009 3:34pm
MartyH (mail):
C'mon Cardozo'd-if you read the history of the bill you'll see it went from Bush to the Congress to the Senate, where it was amended, before being sent to the House for its final version. Don't try to say that the Senate Democrats didn't have input. From Wiki:

Congress immediately started work on several proposed anti-terrorist bills, before the Justice Department finally drafted a bill called the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001. This was introduced to the House as the Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act of 2001, and was later passed by the House as the Uniting and Strengthening America (USA) Act (H.R. 2975) on October 12.[2] It was then introduced into the Senate as the USA Act of 2002 (S. 1510) [3] where a number of amendments were proposed by Senator Russ Feingold,[4][5][6][7] all of which were passed. The final bill, the USA PATRIOT Act was introduced into the House on October 23 and incorporated H.R. 2975, S. 1510 and many of the provisions of H.R. 3004 (the Financial Anti-Terrorism Act).[8] It was vehemently opposed by only one Senator, Russ Feingold, who was the only Senator to vote against the bill.
2.13.2009 3:35pm
Constantin:
The most important difference is that this stimulus bill was on the minds of the voters when they made their pick between Democrat and Republican administration of the country. The Patriot Act wasn't even a twinkle in the eye of the most full throated Bush supporters.

I think that makes the two bills completely incomparable.


I call shenanigans on this one. Where's the "tax cut for everyone making under $250k" that Obama promised in the campaign? Where's the transparency he ran on? Where's the line-by-line examination of spending bills and striking out of wasteful projects? Where's the removal of lobbyists from the legislative process? The guy couldn't even live up to his promise to post the thing online for five days.

This monster has absolutely nothing in common with the agenda Obama ran on. Of course, those of us who weren't blinded by the Messiah Act knew the score.
2.13.2009 3:35pm
Constantin:
The common theme today is the barely restrained Republican anticipation for both another terrorist attack and a continued worsening of the economy so that they can campaign on the "I told you so" platform in 2010.

Projection, and you know it. Nancy Pelosi went to bed every night between 2004 and 1/19/09 hoping someone would blow something up here, and praying to her secular God that as many Americans as possible would die in Iraq.
2.13.2009 3:37pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Yes, and the stimulus had a number of amendments voted on and added and subtracted. What's the difference? In each case the President essentially wrote the bill with his own party and shoved it through congress at a very fast rate with very little actual input from the opposing party. This is revisionist history you are dealing in.

Here is more from that very same Wiki article:

The USA PATRIOT Act has generated a great deal of controversy since its enactment. Opponents of the Act have been quite vocal in asserting that it was passed opportunistically after the September 11 terrorist attacks, believing there to have been little debate. They view the Act as one that was hurried through the Senate with little change before it was passed.
2.13.2009 3:41pm
A Law Dawg:
Building a train from Disneyland to Vegas is actively harmful because of its opportunity cost.
Explain?


The money, labor, and resources spent on the project are better spent on projects that don't exist for the sole benefit of getting the majority leader from Nevada re-elected.
2.13.2009 3:41pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Constantin,

George Bush ran on a platform of a uniter who would not delve into nation building. But things changed...Obama made promises yes (are we seriously taking political promises to heart now?) and then the worst recession since the depression happened including the collapse of our entire financial services industry...so are you saying you'd rather a rigid politician who doesn't react to current conditions than one who is willing to take the political risk of breaking a promise to do what he feels is right?
2.13.2009 3:44pm
Cardozo'd (www):
The money, labor, and resources spent on the project are better spent on projects that don't exist for the sole benefit of getting the majority leader from Nevada re-elected.

Isn't the object of Democracy to elect those who do the right thing in Congress? So if he's re-elected, doesn't that mean he did the right thing? If you really think that's the sole reason you have not investigated too much.
2.13.2009 3:46pm
Gino:
CONGRESS WOULD GET DONE 1/50 OF WHAT THEY "GET DONE" NOW IF THEY HAD TO "READ AND COMPREHEND" EVERYTHING.

I fail to see a problem.
2.13.2009 3:47pm
hawkins:

Isn't the object of Democracy to elect those who do the right thing in Congress? So if he's re-elected, doesn't that mean he did the right thing? If you really think that's the sole reason you have not investigated too much.


The right thing for his constituents isnt necessarily "the right thing."
2.13.2009 3:49pm
Piano_JAM (mail):
I am more troubled by a bill that takes away individual freedoms than one that creates jobs and other programs.

Let's see how free you are to get a loan in a few years when interest rates are through the roof due to all the Gov borrowing.

Building something such as a train does not only create construction jobs, as a lot of other projects will and possibly do better...but it will also create long lasting jobs. Once a train is built it has to be maintained, run both on board and administratively, etc... And that doesn't even take into account the incredible environmental, planning, congestion, workforce efficiency, business efficiency and business opportunities that will result


Can you say AMTRAK? Has never made a profit!
2.13.2009 3:49pm
Constantin:
I'll agree they're all liars, Cardozo. But Obama ran the thrust of the general election campaign--roughly eight weeks--with full knowledge of the economic conditions, and still swore up and down that he'd be different (for all the reasons I stated above). The explicit rationale of Obama's campaign was that he was above political cynicism. We're not four weeks in and he's already broken somewhere approaching every promise he made during the campaign.

Bush was in office eight months before 9/11.
2.13.2009 3:50pm
Cardozo'd (www):
The right thing for his constituents isnt necessarily "the right thing."

And wouldn't the constituents of Nevada know this?

And are Senators not supposed to represent their constituents?
2.13.2009 3:51pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The most important difference is that this stimulus bill was on the minds of the voters when they made their pick between Democrat and Republican administration of the country."

Few know what this stimulus bill is today. How could anyone have this stimulus bill in mind in November?
2.13.2009 3:51pm
A Law Dawg:
The right thing for his constituents isnt necessarily "the right thing."And wouldn't the constituents of Nevada know this?

And are Senators not supposed to represent their constituents?


Cardozo'd, the question is whether the train to Vegas is a legitimate stimulus or is simply pork, not whether Reid is doing what the people of Nevada want. Doing what is good for Nevada at the expense of the country at large is a pretty good criterion for calling a project pork.
2.13.2009 3:54pm
Harvey Mosley (mail):

I'm with the others here. Legislators have no business voting for anything they haven't read and comprehended. HAVE YOU EVER WORKED IN A LEGISLATURE? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA THE SHEER AMOUNT OF BILLS AND PAGES IN THOSE BILLS? CONGRESS WOULD GET DONE 1/50 OF WHAT THEY "GET DONE" NOW IF THEY HAD TO "READ AND COMPREHEND" EVERYTHING.


Before the House or Senate votes on a bill its sponsor should have to stand up and read it, aloud. YES AND THEY'LL VOTE ON 10 BILLS A YEAR BECAUSE OF THIS...IF YOU WANT THEM TO DO ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO REALIZE THEY CAN'T READ EVERYTHING.



So you're saying its better to pass bills that haven't been read? How is someone supposed to know what's in the bill if they haven't read it?

And as others have said, why is it a bad thing if they can only pass 1/50th of the laws they do now? Ten bills a year seems about right. They just need to prioritize.
2.13.2009 3:54pm
Brett:
I'm with Gino. It would be a tremendous victory for basic human freedom if Congress could only get done about 1/50 of what they do now.
2.13.2009 3:55pm
Snaphappy:
Honest question for those against the stimulus, including Mr. Kerr, if he's still around: What would you do instead?
2.13.2009 3:55pm
Cardozo'd (www):
But Obama ran the thrust of the general election campaign--roughly eight weeks--with full knowledge of the economic conditions

I would disagree on several fronts. For one, things are still happening to this day, so he had no way of knowing then what is happening now. Also, he actually didn't keep running on the same theme once this stuff started happening, the major collapses of Lehman and the rest in September...I can't actually recall him campaigning on those same platforms after it became increasingly serious. Wouldn't it be very political to stand with your promises even if they are the wrong thing to do (as he believes they are)?
2.13.2009 3:56pm
Cardozo'd (www):
So you're saying its better to pass bills that haven't been read? How is someone supposed to know what's in the bill if they haven't read it?

Most have staff who know how they will want to vote...a wide margin of bills are retreads so they've already voted on something similar if not the same thing...and it's not a point of knowing the specifics it's a matter of efficiency...there is no good way to read everything.

And as others have said, why is it a bad thing if they can only pass 1/50th of the laws they do now? Ten bills a year seems about right. They just need to prioritize. It's difficult to argue with Anarchy...it's a belief system that you can't really logically argue with about this specific topic...if you don't want them to do anything, than it's a good thing. I for one think that would be devastating and think anybody living in the real world should realize this.
2.13.2009 3:59pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Keeping jobs does stimulate the economy when compared to the situation where those people lose their jobs. If we're losing jobs at this rate, a job saved is a job earned.


Keeping jobs keeps those jobs. The same money could be spent on things that would be productive (or even hire the exact same number of people to sit and home), and not significantly effect Amtrak's user, nevermind the economy as a whole.
2.13.2009 3:59pm
ShelbyC:

CONGRESS WOULD GET DONE 1/50 OF WHAT THEY "GET DONE" NOW IF THEY HAD TO "READ AND COMPREHEND" EVERYTHING.


Yeah, and I could type alot faster if it didn't matter what I was typing.
2.13.2009 4:00pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Yeah, and I could type alot faster if it didn't matter what I was typing.

My opposing argument (given there will be plenty who disagree) is an entire country doesn't rely on you typing a certain amount...that is different for Congress.
2.13.2009 4:01pm
Cardozo'd (www):
btw, I really like all this. Good job everyone.
2.13.2009 4:02pm
josh:
How'bout this for a difference: Prior to passage of the stimulous bill, the country was losing more than 500,000 jobs per month. While the P Act did follow the worst terrorist strike in our country's history, we weren't losing thousands of people from terrorism [of course, b/c GWB was so awesome!]
2.13.2009 4:04pm
A Law Dawg:
My opposing argument (given there will be plenty who disagree) is an entire country doesn't rely on you typing a certain amount...that is different for Congress.


That increases the importance of passing good laws instead of bad ones. If a state passes a bad law, it normally doesn't harm the people of other states. If Congress passes a bad law, it harms the whole country, and on this bill, if it passes a bad bill it harms the entire planet.
2.13.2009 4:04pm
Anon21:
Just to note: Reid expressed interest in getting one particular HSR project funded from the $8 billion allocated in the stimulus bill for general HSR projects. Leaving aside the potential merits of an LA-Las Vegas HSR line (for my money, it sounds like a great idea--this is a heavily trafficked corridor at approximately the right distance to be efficiently serviced by rail, as opposed to air travel), the bill did not contain any specific provision allocating money to this project. It is one of several HSR projects on the drawing board throughout the country that may be eligible to receive such funds. To present the issue as though Reid snuck in an earmark to fund this project is simply dishonest. The money is for HSR generally, and the project is HSR--that's the only connection.

It's possible that Reid's clout will somehow get the money directed towards this project over others. That will probably depend on the method of administration. I'm assuming (without knowing any details) that the federal Department of Transportation will decide how specifically to allocate these HSR funds, and it's possible that one consideration will be "Are there any projects we could fund that would make key Senators happy?" But that's entirely speculative, so to present it as a done deal is, as I already pointed out, dishonest.
2.13.2009 4:08pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Law Dawg,

It's a fair point, and it's why I imagine they try to read what they can....on a lot of topics, no bill is a disaster...and I mean a lot of topics. It's not a perfect system, but what can you do.

It's simply, they have a lot they HAVE to do...and they wouldn't get to what they HAVE to do if they read everything. It's difficult to argue with those who think they should pass 10 bills a year, because you want an entirely different country
2.13.2009 4:08pm
Constantin:
I can't actually recall him campaigning on those same platforms after it became increasingly serious. Wouldn't it be very political to stand with your promises even if they are the wrong thing to do (as he believes they are)?

At no time on the trail did he jettison the touchy-feely change and (entirely unrealistic, in light of basic human nature) ethics and post-partisanship pledges that were the organizing principles of his campaign.

Again, we're not four weeks in, and that stuff is history. Few of even his most ardent supporters are defending him on these grounds, instead resorting to blaming on a GOP "War Against the White House" (see Andersen Cooper last night for an illustration of this developing media meme) or simply admitting what guys like me were saying all along in opposing Obama's candidacy: that politics is a dirty business.
2.13.2009 4:08pm
Leland (mail):
OMB has a definition of pork:
Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds.

I'd say the train from Disneyland to Vegas fits that definition. So does the Frisbee park in Austin. I'm sure there are more.

We can debate as to individuals view of what really is pork, but just going by the Obama's OMB definition, this is a bill full of earmarks.
2.13.2009 4:09pm
Strict:

This monster has absolutely nothing in common with the agenda Obama ran on.


First, this is not the Fulfilling Obama Campaign Promises Act.

Second, things have changed since the campaign. Obama's campaign began after the housing bubble burst, but before the economic crisis really hit. For example, when he announced his candidacy the DJIA was 12,500; now it's below 8,000, and may dip below 7,000 sometime very soon...

Third, everyone knew that Obama would be a spendocrat. A huge spending bill is not a surprise at all. It's about as much of a "surprise" as A-Rod doing steroids.
2.13.2009 4:09pm
MartyH (mail):
Cardozo'd-

Thanks. I needed the head pat.

The original question was, "Is the "Stimulus Bill" the Patriot Act of the Obama Administration?"

Can we at least agree that the Democrats had greater opportunity to influence the Patriot Act than the Republicans do to change the Stimulus?

The biggest difference is that the Patriot Act was a true bipartisan measure, winning by lopsided majorities in both houses. The Stimulus Plan, succeed or fail, is a Democratic creation.
2.13.2009 4:13pm
Cardozo'd (www):
entirely unrealistic, in light of basic human nature Well, not arguing with the fact that he did make a promise and has been unable to keep this promise due to circumstances ( a broken promise nontheless ) I see change. I see Repub's in the executive (and even more invited who didn't stay), I see President visiting with Repub's about bills who then said the President was actually interested in hearing what they had to say, I see a president who had a bill that he made half tax cuts (a concession) for the Republicans (presumably), a president who is in front of the press often and answer questions thoughtfully (if it's a shot at Bush or not it's true)......none of this happened in the past...god I don't know how many years. Seems like a bit of change no?
2.13.2009 4:14pm
Cardozo'd (www):
I'd say the train from Disneyland to Vegas fits that definition

There is nothing that specifically sends money for this project, as far as I've read....therefore making it not pork according to your definition.
2.13.2009 4:16pm
Constantin:
First, this is not the Fulfilling Obama Campaign Promises Act.

It sure isn't.

Second, things have changed since the campaign. Obama's campaign began after the housing bubble burst, but before the economic crisis really hit. For example, when he announced his candidacy the DJIA was 12,500; now it's below 8,000, and may dip below 7,000 sometime very soon...

We were in the same boat we're in now for all three presidential debates. Show me where Obama dispensed with his anti-lobbyist, pro-change, anti-pork, pro-transparency, anti-partisan ("I won"), pro-fiscal discipline, pro tax-cuts platform at any time during these debates, or at any other time post-Lehman? Yet he's bailed on all of the things in his first month in office.

Third, everyone knew that Obama would be a spendocrat. A huge spending bill is not a surprise at all. It's about as much of a "surprise" as A-Rod doing steroids.

He ran as something different. I knew, and you knew, but most people didn't. He did it that way on purpose. Throw out the Change stuff and he's just another guy. And he's sure as hell not the president.
2.13.2009 4:17pm
commontheme (mail):

one could easily define whether it was successful -- no new terrorist attacks on American soil;

And the most amazing thing is that it was pretty effective retroactively since there were only a handful of terrorist attacks on US soil in the 50 years that preceded passage of the Patriot Act.
2.13.2009 4:17pm
OrinKerr:
RPT writes:
Read the history. The Patriot Act was part of the runup hype to the Iraq War, and that debacle was as full of waste as anything could be and will ultimately be the largest spending program ever, far in excess of the current legislation.
Can I ask where one reads such a history?
2.13.2009 4:18pm
A Law Dawg:
It's simply, they have a lot they HAVE to do...and they wouldn't get to what they HAVE to do if they read everything.


I'm interested to hear how you define this bill as something they HAVE to do. Declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor is something that HAD to be done quickly, because the problem was precisely defined and the situation presented two alternatives: respond with force or do nothing.

The current situation is utterly distinguishable: the nature of the economic malaise is manifold and difficult to understand. It is therefore difficult to articulate a successful response (even Obama doesn't pretend he knows the bill will work). The Democrats have sold the public on the notion that, like Pearl Harbor, there are only two options: 1) This Congressional Action, or 2) Nothing. That choice is utterly false. Even if you assume that members of Congress HAVE to act, there is simply no defense for the position that they HAVE to act in THIS way or we all go down the toilet.
2.13.2009 4:18pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Can we at least agree that the Democrats had greater opportunity to influence the Patriot Act than the Republicans do to change the Stimulus?

The biggest difference is that the Patriot Act was a true bipartisan measure, winning by lopsided majorities in both houses. The Stimulus Plan, succeed or fail, is a Democratic creation.


I can't agree to that. The Dems played very little role if any at all in the Pat Act...a few amendments maybe...just as the Reps played in the Stimulus (putting aside the fact that the Dems including a ton of tax cuts specifically for the Repubs and nothing like that happened in the Pat Act). The fact that the Pat Act passed by lopsided margin is because the Dems are a group of political pussys who were afraid to look week on defense after an attack - the Reps aren't pussies afraid to look like they don't care after a financial attack...so the stimulus won't pass by a huge margin.
2.13.2009 4:19pm
Anon21:
Cardozo'd:
There is nothing that specifically sends money for this project, as far as I've read....therefore making it not pork according to your definition.

You've got it. I would suggest to Leland that if he cites a definition ("circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process") that does not fit the example he wants to give (the LA-LV HSR project, which is nowhere specified in the stimulus bill, and is one of many projects which will compete for such funding), he had better either change his example or find a more amenable definition before putting virtual pen to paper.
2.13.2009 4:21pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Law Dawg,

Despite the fact that you assume you are right about this not being urgent (despite a video like this)...when I say there is a lot that has to be done, I'm not even talking about this bill...I'm talking about over the entire year if they read everything, they simply won't get done what has to get done. I don't know your experience, but I've worked in a state legislators office and she couldn't possibly have done it, nevermind a US congressperson.
2.13.2009 4:22pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

First, this is not the Fulfilling Obama Campaign Promises Act.



In a way it is. Constantin is correct that Obama has already violated his campaign promises about transparency, eliminating government programs that don't work, fiscal responsibility, etc.

On the other hand, Obama has certainly used the opportunity of this "crisis" to ram though as many of his promised pet projects in this bill (e.g. EHR, corporate welfare for "green technology," Daschle's board on comparative effectiveness, etc.) that don't fit the bill as a short-term economic stimulus (he calls them "investments") and probably should be brought up individually for a vote instead of being rushed through as part of a supposed "stimulus" bill.
2.13.2009 4:30pm
A Law Dawg:
I absolutely believe the problem is urgent. But it is not helpful to do the Heimlich on someone who is bleeding from a severed leg. Taking action may well be required; taking the wrong action is not.
2.13.2009 4:31pm
mls (www):
Professor Kerr- you can't compare the Patriot Act and the stimulus bill because one is good and one is bad. Everyone agrees on that. So your analogy is obviously inapt.
2.13.2009 4:38pm
David Warner:
But, um, um, TORTURE!
2.13.2009 4:40pm
Orion (mail):
Whenever I look at the stimulus bill I get stuck on the line where they give some police department $20,000 to buy tasers. I don't know too many economists who consider "tasers" the kind of "stimulus" this economy needs. Yes, it's a *tiny* item compared with all the rest, but it shows the mentality of those who wrote the bill: sweep up all the pork you can find, wrap a bow around it and call it a stimulus bill. FDR gave us the WPA; these clowns taser us. At least Roosevelt had a cognitive idea what he wanted to do. The Democrats today just want to spend large gobs of money on their favored constituencies.
2.13.2009 4:41pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Could you tell me where to find that provision?
2.13.2009 4:47pm
Sarcastro (www):
Clearly, anything that helps a Democratic Congressional district is pork, and therefore inherently less stimulative than doing stuff like digging holes and filling them up.

Productivity leads not to stimulus but to corruption. The only way to prevent corruption is to have tax cuts and not spending.

I would also like to pick apart about 2% of mishegas in the bill and say this means the bill is all crap.
2.13.2009 5:05pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Just for everyone's information...I just ran a search on the entire bill...the word "taser" doesn't show up once.

Also, there is no provision for a Las Vegas rail project.
2.13.2009 5:05pm
Larry Reilly (mail):
Might as well bring in some of the same impetus as in the past:
Why do you hate America?
2.13.2009 5:19pm
Uninterested Observer (mail):
mls is the thread winner:


Professor Kerr- you can't compare the Patriot Act and the stimulus bill because one is good and one is bad. Everyone agrees on that. So your analogy is obviously inapt.
2.13.2009 5:28pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
H.R. 1 was introduced in the House on January 26. At 100 pages a day, the bill would have been read by Feb. 3, with the rest of the time till today available to keep up with the amendments.
2.13.2009 5:43pm
John Moore (www):

I am more troubled by a bill that takes away individual freedoms than one that creates jobs and other programs.


The porkulus act takes away economic liberty from all of us. Which personal freedom did you lose to the Patriot Act?
2.13.2009 5:55pm
ohwilleke:
FWIW, few of the serious War on Terrorism abuses attributed to the Bush Administration had any link whatsoever to the Patriot Act, and the principal civil liberties concern from that act, over use of National Security Letters, has subsequently been addressed by the courts and burecratic action.

Likewise, the major criticism of the Bush Administration with regard to spying on the American public without suspicion, was not that FISA provided unnecessarily great Congressional grants of executive power, but that the few limitations of FISA were ignored.

Most of the most troubling War on Terrorism practices were rooted legally in general separation of powers doctrine (the Unitary Executive doctrine, for example), the state secrets doctrine, the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), and the Detainee Treatment Act.

Indeed, the Patriot Act was actually used, unsuccessfully, as an argument in the cases of Padilla and Al-Marri and othere domestic "enemy combatant" detainees, that Congress had already spoken and that the lines drawn by Congress in the Patriot Act, rather than those drawn by the President unilaterally, should goven.
2.13.2009 6:05pm
Jeff R.:

HAVE YOU EVER WORKED IN A LEGISLATURE? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA THE SHEER AMOUNT OF BILLS AND PAGES IN THOSE BILLS? CONGRESS WOULD GET DONE 1/50 OF WHAT THEY "GET DONE" NOW IF THEY HAD TO "READ AND COMPREHEND" EVERYTHING.


If that were true, I'd be in the category of 'this is a feature, not a bug', but in fact the sheer size of major bills is not a necessary feature of them. It happens because there isn't anything acting against the trend (like rules requiring reading and comprehension before votes, or limiting bill sizes), and because it gives an advantage to the people doing it, allowing them to sneak things into bills at the last minute that wouldn't remotely survive a simple up-down vote. I have utter faith, though, in Congresses ability to pass all manner of laws and spend all manner of money even were they restricted to short 20-page-or-fewer fully self-contained bills. I mean, I could write an $800 billion dollar stimulus in a couple paragraphs that wouldn't be noticably worse than this one. [It would be largely block grants. With 20 pages you could probably keep nearly all of the bulk spending in the current bill as is, even]
2.13.2009 6:10pm
Alexia:
Pork:
*$30 million to save a mouse habitat in San Francisco

*$8 billion to create a high speed rail system between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and a second one somewhere in the Mid-West.

*$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts

*$2 billion for neighborhood organizations.

*$1 billion for a prevention and wellness fund available for sexually transmitted disease education and prevention
2.13.2009 6:11pm
Sarcastro (www):
I hate spending money on trains! Stupid infrastructure never did anything for me! And artists are well known misers who never spend any money they get. And I generally find treating diseases to be much more lucrative than preventing the diseases.

And don't get me started on organizing neighborhoods! What does that even mean? Sounds Communist! Advocating for poor neighborhood housing and infrastructure? Pshaw!

Finally, I'd like to not that all this stuff is totally in the bill if you search for it. Cardozo'd just fails at the internets.
2.13.2009 6:18pm
Strict:

We were in the same boat we're in now for all three presidential debates.


Yeah, we're in the same boat, but (1) we have a better idea of what exactly the boat is, and (2) things inside the boat have been changing. A few post-debate developments...

Major TARP revisions
Madoff
TALF
BOA / Merrill Lynch merger
GMAC, CIT, American Express, Goldman conversion to bank holding
Massive Treasury purchases under Capital Purchase Program
Ongoing huge changes in China's economic policies
Millions of jobs lost in USA
Hundreds of thousands of foreclosures
...

Obama's response is multi-faceted, but the centerpiece is clearly this spending bill. What do you think would happen without the bill? Trading and investment would certainly come to a halt, and the downward spiral would definitely continue. With the bill, it still may, but it may not, who knows? Can you think of any alternatives?
2.13.2009 6:25pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Pork:

*$30 million to save a mouse habitat in San thFrancisco

Those mice must have one hell of a lobby. Hopefully endangered species unique to Ohio and South Carolina are not being neglected.

*$8 billion to create a high speed rail system between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and a second one somewhere in the Mid-West.

A program which has, as one goal, the development of our national infrastructure, will likely have some impact in Southern California. As a side benefit, the many Angelenos who clog I-15 en route to leaving their money in Vegas will have an alternative to burning oil from countries who don't like us very much.

*$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts

It worked the first time. See WPA murals, Diego Rivera
2.13.2009 6:28pm
David Warner:
Sarcastro,

"The only way to prevent corruption is to have tax cuts and not spending."

You forgot your brackets on that one. Good point.
2.13.2009 6:53pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Honest question for those against the stimulus, including Mr. Kerr, if he's still around: What would you do instead?"


First, state the problem in plain and simple words. Heard that done by anybody?

Then determine the principles which will be employed by the government to deal with the problem, identify items that will be most effective and efficient in impementing those principles, and separate them into packages depending on when they will be implemented. Take up the 2009 bill first and treat it like any other piece of legislation. That means both hearings, reading it, and letting the public know what is in it.
2.13.2009 6:58pm
RPT (mail):
"Constantin:

"'The common theme today is the barely restrained Republican anticipation for both another terrorist attack and a continued worsening of the economy so that they can campaign on the "I told you so" platform in 2010.'

Projection, and you know it. Nancy Pelosi went to bed every night between 2004 and 1/19/09 hoping someone would blow something up here, and praying to her secular God that as many Americans as possible would die in Iraq."

Any you have this intimate knowledge of Ms. Pelosi how? From public statements? The Republican perspective and desire for more bad news has been widely articulated, including on this forum.

To Orin Kerr: Your question re th linkage between the Patriot Act and Iraq is pertinent and requires more time than I have now. There is a record of comments reflecting the neo-con and others' desire to attack Iraq starting somewhere around 9.12.01. There was comprehensive political control in the WH, exercised by Rove, among others, and extensively coordinated with various actors.
2.13.2009 7:36pm
josil (mail):
After all the arguments (ignoring the purely partisan ones), I still think Will Rogers (?) had it right: "We are all in danger as long as Congress is in session."
2.13.2009 8:22pm
Nick056:
The primary difference between the stimulus bill and the PATRIOT Act, aside from the fact that one doesn't have a hilariously overblown title (I know, hard to tell which, right) is that the parties are very clearly divided about how to spend money, and in 2001 were not so clearly divided as to how to defend the country best. The real difference over the War on Terror emerged after the fact.

It may also be worth mentioning that the Clinton budget of '92 was opposed by every Republican in the house, and that that helped the Reps very much politically. Then again, that bill contained tax hikes, whereas this bill contains far, far more in tax cuts than it does in anything that could be described even loosely as pork.

It's interesting that I haven't seen this pointed out yet. It might be because the defenders of the bill don't love talking about the massive tax cuts, necessarily, because many liberals had the sense the bill would be better with fewer of them. Meanwhile, there aren't enough tax cuts of
the right sort for conservatives and libertarians to even notice. Consequently the 36% of the bill described by the CBO as tax cuts goes by with little mention. This may be the largest tax cut to go so quietly.
2.13.2009 8:40pm
Nick056:
George Bush's 2001 recession tax cut, by the way, apparently amounted to 1.35 trillion dollars and received 28 House Dem votes and 12 Senate Dem votes.

This actually complicates my own point about this bill being evidence of the deep entrenchment over spending issues. The Republicans simply are, in comparing these two bills, and Clinton's bill, less willing to compromise.

Is it right? I don't know. Does it pay off politically? It has before. This time, though, if the economy recovers and the stimulus bill is received as a success, the Republicans could lose again in 2010. That would be a very, very difficult period for the party.
2.13.2009 8:48pm
PWR:
The Patriot Act, SOX, Homeland Security, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and the Stimulus all seem to take a clear off the wishlist approach and push through as fast as possible.

In defense of the Patriot Act, everyone went back for seconds with more debate. SOX hasn't been a complete disaster, but the costs definitely exceeded the initial estimates. It should have included the GSE's in its net.

Defenders of the stimulus and Obama for saying the situation has changed are wrong. The stage was set in September, most of the symptoms for a changed situation are after-effects and there will be more to come. The stimulus is not going to do anything to mitigate those.

If the Vegas railroad was in, how many cashiers from Linen-n-Things would you want on that project? The people that lost their jobs do not have the skill sets to match these "newly created ones". This bill is about the closest thing to pure crap I can remember and it will do more damage to us all and our freedoms, then the Patriot Act ever did. We are all California now.

Bush does have some responsibility for the financial crisis, but there are so many "villians", including the joker pulling equity out of his house every time the price went up. This created an expanded economy that had to contract when the jig was up (like the "new economy"). I do think though people saying the "policies" that created this mess should be able to cite some (please a few, be specific - also explain how Bush passed that particular feature or law). I know I could find House transcripts where the regulation of GSE's kept being put on the back-burner in a bi-partisan manner.

RPT - "There was comprehensive political control in WH, exercised by Rove, among others, and extensively coordinated with various actors." Really? How so? What would have been the consequences for speaking your mind - sent to Gitmo? Please explain this conspiracy nonsense.
2.13.2009 8:55pm
Perseus (mail):
To Orin Kerr: Your question re th linkage between the Patriot Act and Iraq is pertinent and requires more time than I have now. There is a record of comments reflecting the neo-con and others' desire to attack Iraq starting somewhere around 9.12.01. There was comprehensive political control in the WH, exercised by Rove, among others, and extensively coordinated with various actors.

Allow me to help out RPT. See Lyndon LaRouche's "Children of Satan" (pdf version here) :

"Like Hitler's Reichstag fire of 1933, the Sept. 11, 2001 attack was exploited by Vice-President Dick Cheney and such followers of the Nazi-like Professor Leo Strauss as Attorney-General John Ashcroft, to unleash an attempted stepwise, fascist takeover of the U.S.A. from within.n2 That incident of Sept. 11, 2001 was then used to unleash a campaign of intended worldwide warfare, warfare modelled on Athens' tragic folly of the Peloponnesian war, and on such Classically fascist precedents as those of the Roman Caesars, the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolf Hitler."

n2: "The war policy of the Bush Administration, and the "Patriot Act" drafts and Guantanamo base and related doctrines of Ashcroft, are copies of the Nazi concentration camp and related dogma in law developed by Carl Schmitt."
2.13.2009 9:37pm
Chem_Geek:
Snaphappy,

I for one would take the 787E9 dollars and cut a check to each of the 383,824,640 people of the United States, for the amount of $2500. If one's going to throw money around, let's throw it to lift all boats.

Alternatively, write a law ceasing Federal income tax withholding from everyone's paychecks beginning on 1 April 2009 and going for as long as it takes to reach the aforementioned $2500. That's less even a distribution due to the fact that not everyone is subject to withholding...
2.13.2009 10:24pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
It may also be worth mentioning that the Clinton budget of '92 was opposed by every Republican in the house, and that that helped the Reps very much politically. Then again, that bill contained tax hikes, whereas this bill contains far, far more in tax cuts than it does in anything that could be described even loosely as pork.


Except that aside from a few minor (and temporary) changes in the taxes assessed on business, there really isn't much in the way of any actual "tax cuts" in the bill. What we have instead the government cutting a check to everyone earning below a certain dollar amount and trying to pass it off as a "tax cut" which is patently ridiculous because (a) it no relation to whether the person even pays any income tax and (b) it certainly isn't a cut in the payroll tax because it doesn't affect how much the recipient has credited towards OASDI. Basically it's a welfare check except it's being distributed through the Department of the Treasury instead of the Department of HHS.
2.13.2009 11:41pm
Psalm91 (mail):
Perseus:

Is LaRouche a friend of yours? Do you consider him a reliable source? What is your point?
2.13.2009 11:53pm
Anon21:
PWR:
If the Vegas railroad was in, how many cashiers from Linen-n-Things would you want on that project? The people that lost their jobs do not have the skill sets to match these "newly created ones".

Perhaps you haven't heard, but the construction industry is in fairly awful shape right now, what with all the canceled developments piling up over the last year and change. Not to mention the industries backing construction, such as manufacturers of various kinds (steel, heavy machinery, timber, etc.). So new funding for infrastructure projects, including HSR, can put construction workers back on jobs they may have lost, as well as support other critical domestic industries.

You are perhaps familiar with the chain of causation from there--construction workers are rehired and/or receive more hours than they otherwise would have, they have more money to spend, and some of them go out and spend it at Linens 'n Things, which, due to increasing revenues, is able to rehire some of those cashiers. This is all fairly basic stuff, so I have to think you're intentionally ignoring it rather than merely ignorant of it.
2.14.2009 3:27am
theobromophile (www):
Maybe this has been mentioned upthread, but, of all the differences between the stimulus and the PATRIOT Act, one stands out: Barack Obama was elected, not on a mandate for liberalism (he ran as a moderate), but as a candidate for changing the way things are done in Washington. He's precluded himself from using the "But everyone else does it" or "politics as usual" excuse.

Oh, on that part about not running as a liberal: he ran as someone who would be more effective at reaching across the aisle than John McCain and Sarah Palin.

If campaign promises are to mean anything, then Obama's feet should be held to the fire for this one.
2.14.2009 10:49am
TokyoTom (mail):
Politicians love the war meme, Orin. Nothing like having an "enemy" to focus on, and a war mentality makes it easier to both appeal to patriotism and to use it as a club against footdraggers.

FDR did the same with most of his New Deal programs.
2.14.2009 11:23am
TEvanFisher (mail):
If only the stimulus bill was a little bit bigger...

Maybe we could nationalize a few industries that have failed to protect the income of their workers and replace them with patriotic green-collar workplaces. We can all agree that America needs to get back to work, and nobody has more money to hire those unemployed victims of capitalist greed than the government of the most powerful nation in the world. Let's build trains and paint murals. Let's build cars that are *truly* American, just like the good old days. Let's hire those out-of-work financial servicepersons as economic analysts and inner-city school teachers. A job for everyone! We could solve the homeless problem by building miles and miles of affordable public housing and help the failing construction industry at the same time.

Anybody else out of work? We can retrain them!

Isn't the answer obvious? We need another New Deal.

We all knew Obama would be a great president when we elected him - just like FDR. I wonder if we can amend the constitution to allow him a third (and fourth!) term. Out of respect for tradition, however, he shouldn't seek a 5th term.
2.14.2009 11:54am
Elliot123 (mail):
I'm a bit surprised at all the hand wringing about unemployment. We are at 7.5%. Full emloyment is 3% to 5%. So we have 2% to 4% additional unemployed. Take 3% as the additional unemployed, represneting 4,500,000 out of 150,000,000, then the stimulus is spending $178,000 for each of those jobs.

And Harry Reid's railroad? Is a line from LA to LV the best use of federal RR construction funds? How many people will use it to get to work? Are there other places in the nation where a RR can create jobs in building it, and at both ends of the line when it's finished? Is there a conceptual design? Bid package? Have requests for proposals gone out? Requests for bids? Bid evaluation? Right of way acquired? Detailed design? How long will it take for the permits, environmantal impact studies, and lawsuits? How many striped lizards would be endangered? Can the yellow tailed cactus mouse cross over tracks on its annual migration? If we face an immediate crisis, how does Harry's RR help? How much of the funding for his RR will be spent this year? Next year? Within three years? Five years?

The RRs have been trying to build a major terminal in Gardner, Kansas, but haven't turned a shovel because they have been in court for the last few years, and federal permits alone have taken years. Why will Harry's RR be any different?

We are not capable of doing any major construction in a short period of time because we have tied ourselves up in law. If we were in another country, we could. Does the stimulus contain a waiver for these projects?
2.14.2009 3:51pm
Dan Weber (www):
Anon321 said:
I suppose that I'm also slightly confused about this being labeled "pork." The essence of the bill is to kickstart the economy by spending lots of money. That money will be spent on projects. Not surprisingly, those projects will probably be ones favored by politicians.


This bill could have been 1/100th of the size by saying "allocate to each state $2000 for each person listed as of the 2000 Census." States are having real budget problems and giving them money will stop them from laying off even more people. And that leaves plenty of pages for the Federal government to target roads, bridges, broadband, and the power grid.

Of course, the Republicans didn't counter by giving a bill like I described.

Elliot123 said:
I'm a bit surprised at all the hand wringing about unemployment. We are at 7.5%. Full emloyment is 3% to 5%. So we have 2% to 4% additional unemployed. Take 3% as the additional unemployed, represneting 4,500,000 out of 150,000,000, then the stimulus is spending $178,000 for each of those jobs.

As you say, we are only under-utilizing labor by a small amount. But capital is vastly vastly utilized. Which means that recapitalizing the banks is much more important.
2.14.2009 8:03pm
GaryC (mail):
Chem_Geek:

I for one would take the 787E9 dollars and cut a check to each of the 383,824,640 people of the United States, for the amount of $2500. If one's going to throw money around, let's throw it to lift all boats.

I agree with much of your comment, but there is a typo in the population number, which should be 303 million, not 383 million.
2.14.2009 10:03pm
Guest-aholic:
Anon21,

You have an interesting recollection of the Bush Presidency. I didn't realize that he had passed social security privatization, permanently repealed the death tax, slashed the corporate tax rate in half, and succeeded in confirming all his judicial nominees (Miguel Estrada?). Those are the things that would have happened, after all, had Republicans been able to enact their policies as they desired.

There are plenty of shots to take at Bush without conveniently ignoring the fact that Democrats did plenty of obstructing during his years in office. Like most Presidents, Bush had to make a lot of compromises, and there is a reason that we all joke about "splitting the baby" -- some things can't be split well. You can't lower taxes and increase spending, both domestically and in order to fund a war across the globe, without suffering consequences. You also can't claim to be a free-market proponent when you're playing a huge role in distorting that market (Fannie and Freddie), and Bush was certainly guilty of that (thoug so were nearly all Democrats), particularly in his first term.

The reason Republicans are better in "opposition" is that it actually allows them to honor the principles they claim to support. When Democrats control Congress or the White House, Republicans can't fund their preferences, so they spend their time checking excesses of the Democratic Administration (and with Pelosi, there will always be plenty). That check isn't as effective as a minority party where they can't influence legislation, but it is very effective when Republicans control Congress and a Democrat holds the White House. We saw this play out well in the Clinton Administration.

Unfortunately, Republicans don't fare well when they control Congress and the White House. Not immune from corruption of power, Republican legislators lose all sight of the importance of limited government and agree to fund any and all programs that make them more popular in their district. And when coupled with a "compassionate" conservative like George W. Bush, they have no effective check on domestic spending. And when militiary spending increases, as it did after 9-11 (and it would have regardless of Iraq, as there was universal acceptance of the Afghanistan mission), Republican legislators were all too willing to pile up massive amounts of debt by paying for that increased spending not with increased taxes or lower spending, but instead with more debt.

You can call these "Republican" policies, but I don't know many Republicans who think that spending beyond our means is "Republican policy." Even the big tax cutters, like the Club for Growth types, don't think we should be running up these huge deficits and expanding the size of the federal government each year. Most Republicans want lower taxes and MUCH lower spending. But like all things that require short-term sacrifices in a democracy, cutting spending is difficult to achieve politically, so Republicans have punted in the name of preserving those things that make them popular in their districts.

The problem, then, is not necessarily with the theory behind those policies but instead the practicality of whether they can be implemented in a modern pluralistic democracy. I can tell you that a lot of Republicans have doubts on that question, and that is weighing down the enthusiasm of the party as much as the results of the last election.
2.14.2009 11:05pm
Careless:
This would have been much better if the best post (immediately above mine) hadn't been made after everyone had left the thread. Republican politicians can do nothing but sometimes sometimes cut taxes and propose Constitutionally impossible laws while in power at this point. When out of power, they can argue for small government, etc. Recently, Republicans in power=moderate Democrats favoring tax cuts for the rich. Not the sort of people who can usefully argue with Democrats on an enormous bill while out of power.
2.15.2009 2:15am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
guest:

Those [social security privatization etc] are the things that would have happened, after all, had Republicans been able to enact their policies as they desired. … Democrats did plenty of obstructing during his years in office


It's revisionism to claim that "social security privatization" didn't pass because of Democrats "obstructing" it. For years, the GOP was in control of both houses of Congress, and it never even brought a privatization bill to the floor. The GOP itself could not agree on a bill (6/05):

Social Security Reform in Limbo - House Republican leaders are aiming to pass many bills this summer, but Social Security reform is not one of them. In an e-mail sent to GOP aides and lobbyists late last week, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) office outlined its list of "priority legislation" on the post-Memorial Day calendar. The list includes gun-manufacturer liability, postal reform and the Central America Free Trade Agreement. Social Security reform was notably absent from the detailed list of legislative items. Senator Grassley is pressing to pass legislation out of his committee, but conservatives have argued that a compromise measure will fall short of their intended goals.


Emphasis added.

You can call these "Republican" policies, but I don't know many Republicans who think that spending beyond our means is "Republican policy."


But it does seem to be the policy of Republican presidents. 77% of our national debt was accumulated under three presidents: Reagan, Bush and Bush. Did you know that under Reagan, the national debt almost tripled? And GWB almost doubled it. The debt is now 11 times higher than it was when Reagan took over.

And during that twenty-year period (the terms of those three GOP presidents), Dems had control of both houses of Congress for only eight years. So Republicans in Congress had plenty of influence over spending during that time. As someone said yesterday: "Bush-era Republicans have no moral authority to lecture about deficits." And let's recall that Cheney told us "deficits don't matter." I guess he just meant deficits instigated by the GOP.

The modern GOP has demonstrated that it has no problem with deficit spending, as long as it gets plenty of tax cuts for the rich. Under Ike, the top marginal income tax rate was 91%. Reagan slashed the top rate from 70% to 50%, and then 28%. Now it's 35%. Pre-Reagan, here's the last time the top rate was under 63%: 1931. Anyone know the price tag of the Bush tax cuts? $2 trillion. Throw in another trillion for a war we didn't need, paid for by money we didn't have.

Reagan ushered in an era of low taxes for the rich, and soaring deficits. History shows that those two things tend to go together.
2.15.2009 11:57am
Elliot123 (mail):
The amount of national debt is meaningless unless viewed in the context of the GDP. Perhaps the debt doubles, but the GDP triples.

Tax rates are also meaningless unless one knows the effective tax rate. Perhaps the tax rate is 50%, but after deductions, the effective rate is 25%.

We might also note that 43% of the population are freeloaders who pay no federal income tax.

We can also note how the huge decrease in money paid to people who work on Wall street has effected NYC. They don't get taxes from those people now, so they are laying off city employees. Who benefited from lowering their pay?
2.15.2009 12:44pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Perhaps the debt doubles, but the GDP triples


Tell us about the imaginary planet where "the debt doubles, but the GDP triples." You've got it roughly backwards. Since Reagan took over, GDP has grown by a factor of under 5, while debt has grown by a factor of 11.

Tax rates are also meaningless unless one knows the effective tax rate.


For the top 1%, the effective federal tax rate in 1979 was 37.0%. In 2005 (the most recent year I can find) it was 31.2% (pdf). That's a hefty decline.

43% of the population are freeloaders who pay no federal income tax.


According to CBO (pdf cited above), the lowest quintile (according to income category) pays an effective federal tax rate of 4.3%. So you should let us know how you came up with "43%." Maybe it has something to do with suddenly deciding that "the effective tax rate" is "meaningless." It also has something to do with promoting a fraud based on ignoring payroll taxes.

They don't get taxes from those people now, so they are laying off city employees.


When a bubble bursts, a lot of innocent bystanders get hurt. That doesn't mean it's a good idea to keep blowing up the bubble. And it also doesn't mean that current tax policy is fair.
2.15.2009 1:28pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
In defense of cutting a lot of people checks who don't pay income taxes (and not cutting checks for those of us who do), this is not that far away from the negative income tax of Milton Friedman. Think of how much better this whole "stimulus" package would be working if instead of subsidizing every liberal wet dream, the money was just mailed to everyone as checks. Call them refundable tax credits or whatever, but that would eliminate many of the negative effects of the allocation of funds through political power versus any real concept of worth, and would have eliminated the need to hire all those government workers to oversee the spending of the money.
2.15.2009 3:12pm
Fury:
jukeboxgrad:

But it does seem to be the policy of Republican presidents. 77% of our national debt was accumulated under three presidents: Reagan, Bush and Bush. Did you know that under Reagan, the national debt almost tripled? And GWB almost doubled it. The debt is now 11 times higher than it was when Reagan took over.

And during that twenty-year period (the terms of those three GOP presidents), Dems had control of both houses of Congress for only eight years. So Republicans in Congress had plenty of influence over spending during that time. As someone said yesterday: "Bush-era Republicans have no moral authority to lecture about deficits." And let's recall that Cheney told us "deficits don't matter." I guess he just meant deficits instigated by the GOP.


To provide some perspective, could one say the following:

"Under President Clinton, the total public debt outstanding increased from $4,188,092,107,183.60 on 01/20/93 to $5,727,776,738,304.64 on 01/20/01, an increase of 36.8%. And during that twenty-year period (during the terms of three GOP presidents), Dems had control of both houses of Congress for eight of those years - forty percent. So Democrats in Congress had plenty of influence over spending during that time."

As far as someone saying "Bush-era Republicans have no moral authority to lecture about deficits," that's an overly broad statement. There are Republicans who could be considered "deficit" hawks, but they are in the minority, as opposed to fifteen or so years ago.

The point is that both Repubs and Dems have had ample opportunity to reduce the national spending and the national debt. Politicians talk one way and then do something else. For any Repub that voted for some of the nutty things over the last eight years to expect the public to turn on a dime and believe that said Repub is now a deficit hawk is laughable.
2.15.2009 4:46pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"You've got it roughly backwards. Since Reagan took over, GDP has grown by a factor of under 5, while debt has grown by a factor of 11."

Good. That's about 2:1 since Reagan. It's far more meaningful than to say debt tripled under Reagan.

"For the top 1%, the effective federal tax rate in 1979 was 37.0%."

Good. See how meaningless it is to quote a rate of 70% when the effcetive rate is 37%.

"According to CBO (pdf cited above), the lowest quintile (according to income category) pays an effective federal tax rate of 4.3%."

Note the table you linked shows the 2001 effective individual income tax for the lowest quintile at negative 5.5%. The freeloaders are safe for now.

"It also has something to do with promoting a fraud based on ignoring payroll taxes."

Calling income tax income tax is not fraud.
2.15.2009 5:17pm
mattski:
Calling income tax income tax is not fraud.

Using the word "freeloader" to describe people who pay payroll taxes is dishonest.
2.15.2009 5:41pm
Perseus (mail):
Is LaRouche a friend of yours? Do you consider him a reliable source? What is your point?

I was mocking the vast neocon conspiracy theory of national security/foreign policy during the Bush-Cheney administration.
2.15.2009 6:11pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

Think of how much better this whole "stimulus" package would be working if instead of subsidizing every liberal wet dream, the money was just mailed to everyone as checks.

Was this tongue-in-cheek? W. tried that last February. How dd that work out? Did it prevent our falling into a recession? (Answer: No.)

I did get my $1200 last year. Althought I was tempted to stimulate the Korean economy by buying a big screen TV, I just pissed it away on every day stuff.
2.15.2009 6:17pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
fury:

Under President Clinton, the total public debt outstanding increased … 36.8%


That's true. Which is quite moderate, compared with Reagan (189%) and GWB (84%). And Bush I managed to increase the debt 55%, in just 4 years. So Clinton's number is by far the best of those 4.

The point is that both Repubs and Dems have had ample opportunity to reduce the national spending and the national debt.


Dems are far from blameless on this point. I think it would be nice if we had a two-party system. But recent history shows that it's the GOP presidents who have borrowed the most. And it's the GOP, not the Dems, that has heavily promoted itself as the party of fiscal responsibility. Even though that's fiction.

==================
elliot:

Calling income tax income tax is not fraud.


Here's a good example of fraud: pretending that the effective individual income tax rate is more meaningful than the total effective federal tax rate. Also, what mattski said.

==================
bruce:

the money was just mailed to everyone as checks


This doesn't necessarily work the way you want it to. A stimulus is a stimulus only if the money is spent. If you mail people a check, a lot of the money will go into savings, or be used to pay down debt. Then it's not a stimulus.
2.15.2009 6:29pm
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
jbg:
This doesn't necessarily work the way you want it to. A stimulus is a stimulus only if the money is spent. If you mail people a check, a lot of the money will go into savings, or be used to pay down debt. Then it's not a stimulus.


Saved where? In banks? Then it's stimulating the banks, who get capital to loan out to businesses, who - surprise! - are stimulated.

I don't have the requisite background knowledge to answer for the debt side of the equation, but I doubt it's as simple as the money disappearing into some black hole labeled "debt."
2.15.2009 7:26pm
Fury:
jukeboxgrad:

I was just kidding around about the stats. Clearly, many Repubs have abdicated any pretense of fiscal conservatism. Many Repubs said 'nary a peep when President Bush was pushing large spending bills and few took principled stands against such bills. Of course now when there's a Dem in the White House, many of these same Repubs in Congress have now got religion.
2.15.2009 7:43pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
math:

Saved where? In banks? Then it's stimulating the banks, who get capital to loan out to businesses, who - surprise! - are stimulated.


The idea of TARP was that if we gave banks money, they would lend it. But they didn't. Instead, they're sitting on it. So it doesn't work that way.

And even if banks made loans to businesses, that is also not necessarily stimulus. For example, it's not stimulus if the money is used to pay dividends to shareholders.

Stimulus means demand for goods and services. The only sure way for the government to create stimulus is to spend money on goods and services.

================
fury:

I was just kidding around about the stats.


Fair enough, thanks for explaining.
2.15.2009 8:57pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Here's a good example of fraud: pretending that the effective individual income tax rate is more meaningful than the total effective federal tax rate. Also, what mattski said."

When discussing income tax, one is most accurate by using income tax figures. These figures show the 43% of the population who are freeloaders are safe.

"This doesn't necessarily work the way you want it to. A stimulus is a stimulus only if the money is spent. If you mail people a check, a lot of the money will go into savings, or be used to pay down debt. Then it's not a stimulus."

A spending item is a stimulus if it causes under utilized resources to be utilized. Some spending does this, some does not.

Money that is saved becomes part of the pool of funds available to be loaned to people. The higher the savings pool, the lower the interest rates, and the easier it is for someone else to borrow that money and put it to use exploiting under utilized resources. Savings also increase the consumer's wealth effect which is positively correlated to consumer spending. Paying down debt increases corporate liquidity which allows firms to survive a downturn.
2.15.2009 9:10pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The idea of TARP was that if we gave banks money, they would lend it. But they didn't. Instead, they're sitting on it. So it doesn't work that way."

TARP gave banks capital so their capital ratios didn't fall below the level needed to support their existing loans. Much of the problem is with the mark-to-market valuation of the banks' capital. Banks loan deposits, not capital. Bankers are now wondering what the SecTres means last week when he said new stress tests would be applied to banks. They don't know. He didn't say. It wsn't included in his thunder. So they wait.
2.15.2009 9:22pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
elliot:

When discussing income tax, one is most accurate by using income tax figures. These figures show the 43% of the population who are freeloaders are safe.


When discussing "freeloaders," people with integrity talk about the total effective federal tax rate, not just "income tax figures."
2.16.2009 2:05am
Dan Weber (www):
Tony Tutins said:Think of how much better this whole "stimulus" package would be working if instead of subsidizing every liberal wet dream, the money was just mailed to everyone as checks.

Was this tongue-in-cheek? W. tried that last February. How dd that work out? Did it prevent our falling into a recession? (Answer: No.)Although I don't think mailing out checks to every individual would be good policy or good recovery, you aren't setting up a good test. It could well be that we would be in a worse recession without those checks. Or maybe the recession would be just as bad, but household welfare would be worse.

We'll face the same thing with this 2009 stimulus as well. Is it going to "work"? We'll never be able to tell. If things improve, they could have been going to improve anyway. If things go bad, it could have been that things would have been even worse without it. Or maybe much worse. We just can't know.

Of course, just scan back over the past dozen or so comments to see how the partisans on both sides will interpret the results. That much we can know for sure.
2.16.2009 9:31am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
We just can't know.


I agree with you up to a point. Onlookers might declare victory or defeat prematurely, and with a level of certainty that exceeds the available evidence at any particular moment. But that doesn't mean we "can't know" anything at all about the success or failure of the program.

Here's an analogy: "The Apollo Guidance Computer was the first to make use of integrated circuits, and NASA's use of ICs helped make the integrated circuit commercially viable." ICs are now everywhere, and they've changed the world. Is it possible to prove that this would not have happened anyway? Of course not. But nevertheless it's widely accepted that Apollo gave them a big boost. At the very least, it seems reasonable to conclude that Apollo made ICs happen sooner.

The stimulus bill will almost certainly have both positive and negative effects. To the extent that those effects are moderate in magnitude, it will be hard to connect them to the bill. But it's possible that certain effects will be large, and it will be reasonable to draw a connection to the bill. For example, a given project in a given community might have a large impact on that community, either positive or negative. Years later, it might be obvious that the project was well-worth the money spent, or not worth the money at all. Or the results might be in a gray area where it's possible to argue in either direction. And maybe that's the most likely outcome, in general. But I think you might be overstating this.
2.16.2009 10:07am
Joseph Slater (mail):
Theobromophile:

Obama did run as a liberal on a whole host of issues, economic and social. His policies were posted on his website and often discussed in debates and speeches. Indeed, conservatives, Republican mouthpieces, and even Republican candidates repeatedly labeled Obama a "socialist," which they seemed to think meant really, really, REALLY liberal.

I know some folks on the Republican side try to downplay the 2006 and 2008 election trouncings of Republicans as somehow not reflecting anything at all about the evolving policy preferences of the electorate or the beliefs of the candidates they elected. But I don't think that's the best way to understand those elections.
2.16.2009 11:00am
Elliot123 (mail):
"When discussing "freeloaders," people with integrity talk about the total effective federal tax rate, not just "income tax figures."

Freeloaders are found everywhere, and like parasites, are content to feed off whatever host they can find. There are freeloaders on the federal income tax, freeloaders on social security, freeloaders on sales tax, and the CBO has just begun reporting a new line item on tax freeloaders in the Obama administration.
2.16.2009 12:55pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Was this tongue-in-cheek? W. tried that last February. How dd that work out? Did it prevent our falling into a recession? (Answer: No.)"

Do the tax credits to people who pay no taxes have a stimulus effet?
2.16.2009 12:57pm
Guest-aholic:
JBG,

There is a reason social security privatization was never brought to a vote: they couldn't get anything close to 60 votes. This is the problem with posts like Anon21 and yours: rather than engage in reasoned debate about what happened, we have to read this polemic attempts to blame one party for everything. That isn't how the world works.

Social security reform is very difficult. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, you're trying to tackle a long-term problem that will affect short-term minded voters. Unless you have the votes in the can, you will NEVER bring legislation like that up for a vote because there is no point in losing the vote and then getting screwed at the polls anyway.

The original post said that Bush had untrammeled ability to pass legislation, the implication being that he could just set policy as he pleased. Neither party can do that unless they have 60 votes in the Senate, and that hasn't happened in a long time. You're either pretending that the filibuster requirement doesn't exist to score political points or painfully unaware of how the process works. I'll give you credit by assuming the former.

The Democrats controlled the House of Representatives from the late 40s until 1994. So the entire Reagan-Bush I Presidency consisted of divided government. As I argued in the earlier post, I think one can make a compelling argument that divided government actually works best with a Democrat in power because it disables Republicans from abusing their legislative power to spend in order to further their short-term political interests. But in any event, please don't pretend that Reagan could just set spending policy as he pleased with a Democratic House (and at various times Democratic Senate).

Same thing with Bush II. For his first two years, the Democrats controlled the Senate. For his last two years, the Democrats controlled the Senate and the House. So he had four years (2002-2006) where he actually had Republican majorities in both houses, but he never had anything close to a filibuster proof majority. If you disagree, call Miguel Estrada. He'll be quite pissed off to know that.

Both parties have made the choice over the last 30 years to punt on long-term issues by increasing our debt. I hope you really don't pretend otherwise. We can agree or disagree on particular issues, but most reasonable people agree that politicians are quick to throw out principles in favor of survival. Once you accept that basic premise, you should quickly realize that there is plenty of complicity in the dysfunction of government.
2.16.2009 10:12pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
elliot:

There are freeloaders on the federal income tax


People who finance the federal government via payroll taxes are not "freeloaders," even if they pay no income tax. Nice job pretending you don't grasp this.

But since you seem to be concerned about fairness, here are some statistics that might interest you.

• between 1979 and 2005 the real income of the median household rose only 13 percent, but the income of the richest 0.1% of Americans rose 296 percent. [link]

• Most corporate wealth is owned by the top 1% of households. … [link]

• "from 2003 to 2004 … real average income for the top 1 percent of households — those making more than $315,000 in 2004 — grew by nearly 17 percent. For the remaining 99 percent, the average gain was less than 3 percent" [link]

• Under the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes - a minimum of $87 million in 2000, the last year for which the government will release such data - now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to virtually the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000. …

Those earning more than $10 million a year now pay a lesser share of their income in these taxes than those making $100,000 to $200,000. …

The people at the top of America's money pyramid have so prospered in recent years that they have pulled far ahead of the rest of the population … Draw a line under the top 0.1 percent of income earners - the top one-thousandth. Above that line are about 145,000 taxpayers, each with at least $1.6 million in income and often much more. … The share of the nation's income earned by those in this uppermost category has more than doubled since 1980, to 7.4 percent in 2002. … the share earned by the bottom 90 percent fell. [link]

• in 1970 the top 0.01 percent of taxpayers (the 13,000 richest families in America) had 0.7 percent of total income … in 1998 the top 0.01 percent received more than 3 percent of all income [link]

• The 400 wealthiest taxpayers accounted for more than 1 percent of all the income in the United States in the year 2000, more than double their share just eight years earlier, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. But their tax burden plummeted over the period. … The rate actually paid by the top 400 in 2000 was about the same as that paid by a single person making $123,000 [link]

• … the share of the country's GDP going to wages and salaries sank to its lowest postwar level, 45.4%, in the third quarter of 2006 … labor's share of the nation's income is falling … Profits, meanwhile, are at their highest level as a share of GDP since the booming 1960s. [link]


This adds up to something very simple: people who work for a living are falling behind. People who live off their wealth are doing better and better. Mission accomplished!

This is not sustainable:

The income gap between the rich and the rest of the US population has become so wide, and is growing so fast, that it might eventually threaten the stability of democratic capitalism itself.


See if you can guess the name of the moonbat who said that.

================
guest:

There is a reason social security privatization was never brought to a vote: they couldn't get anything close to 60 votes.


Earlier you said this:

Those [social security privatization etc] are the things that would have happened, after all, had Republicans been able to enact their policies as they desired. … Democrats did plenty of obstructing during his years in office


And now you're saying this:

rather than engage in reasoned debate about what happened, we have to read this polemic attempts to blame one party for everything


Your irony impairment is severe. Your earlier statement looks exactly like "polemic attempts to blame one party for everything." You did not acknowledge, and still have not acknowledged, that the GOP itself could not agree on a bill to present. Instead, you suggested that because "Democrats did plenty of obstructing during his years in office," that is the reason why Republicans were not "able to enact their policies as they desired." But the reality is that the GOP itself could not agree on what "policies … they desired."

Unless you have the votes in the can, you will NEVER bring legislation like that up for a vote because there is no point in losing the vote and then getting screwed at the polls anyway.


If you believe in the principle behind the legislation, you do "bring legislation like that up for a vote," and then let voters see that the other party is obstructionist. What actually happened in this instance is that the GOP itself could not figure out what it wanted in the bill.

pretending that the filibuster requirement doesn't exist


More irony. The GOP is in an extraordinarily weak position to complain about filibusters. It's been using them in record numbers.

Personally I think the majority party makes a mistake when it treats 'filibuster' and 'threat of filibuster' as synonyms. Those who threaten to filibuster should be forced to actually do so.

please don't pretend that Reagan could just set spending policy as he pleased


Please don't pretend that the president doesn't have a great deal of influence over tax and spending policy. He does. The federal budget process begins with a budget request created by the president. Reagan began an era of tax-cutting. But it's not really tax-cutting. It's just shifting them to a group that's not in a position to complain: our kids.

there is plenty of complicity in the dysfunction of government


I said the Dems are far from blameless, but there's only one party that has heavily promoted itself as the party of fiscal responsibility. At the same time that it has promoted irresponsible tax cuts as the solution to every problem. The Reagan-Bush tax cuts are a major factor in our soaring national debt.
2.17.2009 1:37pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"People who finance the federal government via payroll taxes are not "freeloaders," even if they pay no income tax. Nice job pretending you don't grasp this."

Freeloaders are flexible folks. An income tax freeloader whines because he pays payroll tax. A payroll tax freeloader whines because he pays income tax. Let's give these freeloaders the recognition they deserve. We might even establish an affirmative action program to grant freeloading credit to minority freeloaders.

Let's start with the 43% who pay no income tax. Give the parasites their fair share of credit. They earned it. Then we can move on to cabinet nominees who are payroll tax freeloaders.
2.17.2009 3:36pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Let's start with the 43% who pay no income tax.


If you think people in the bottom 43% need to pay more in federal taxes (even though they already pay plenty in payroll taxes and other taxes, and even though they've been falling further and further behind as a result of GOP policies favoring the rich), then I hope you convince the GOP to make that an explicit part of their platform.
2.18.2009 12:19pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Parasites and freeloaders are always whining they want someone else to do a better job taking care of them. Why work when someone else will?
2.18.2009 1:31pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Parasites and freeloaders


There are probably a few people who still haven't figured out how the GOP really feels about the bottom 43%. So please keep spreading the word.
2.18.2009 7:00pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"There are probably a few people who still haven't figured out how the GOP really feels about the bottom 43%. So please keep spreading the word."

I doubt it. Those parasites and freeloaders know who they are and have a lot of self esteem.
2.18.2009 8:46pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
You mean the bottom 43% has generally figured out how the GOP really feels about them? I suppose that's possible. It's consistent with recent electoral results.
2.18.2009 10:29pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Of course the 43% knows the Dems consider them parasites and freeloaders. And they know the GOP thinks they are parasites and freeloaders. Everyone knows it. They know it themselves. Just listen to them proclaim how proud they are and how much dignity they have. Pop the top on a Colt-45, settle back in front of the big screen, and whine that nobody has come to their house to convert their TVs to digital.
2.18.2009 11:13pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Pop the top on a Colt-45


I wonder why you mentioned that. "In the United States, malt-liquor drinking has been most often associated with the African-American community" [link]. So is this your not-so-subtle way of telling us that African-Americans are "parasites and freeloaders?"
2.19.2009 1:36am
Elliot123 (mail):
"So is this your not-so-subtle way of telling us that African-Americans are "parasites and freeloaders?"

Of course Blacks are part of the 43% of freeloaders and parasites. I'm not aware of any group that is not represented. Let's not disenfranchise any group from their right to freeload and live off others, and let's be sure each ethnic group is recognized for its outstanding freeloaders and parasites. Now, it would be interesting to see what percentage of each ethnic group are freeloaders and parasites. For example, which ethnic group can boast the greatest percentage of parasites and freeloaders? The least?
2.19.2009 10:55am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
You still haven't explained what you meant by mentioning Colt 45. Maybe you're trying to tell us it was a completely random accident and had nothing to do with the association between that brand and African-Americans.
2.19.2009 3:48pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"You still haven't explained what you meant by mentioning Colt 45. Maybe you're trying to tell us it was a completely random accident and had nothing to do with the association between that brand and African-Americans."

Ain't it great these freeloaders and parasites can get someone else to buy their Colt-45 for them?
2.19.2009 5:37pm

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