The stimulus bill--now extra-larded by the Senate--is a compilation of Democrat wet dreams preserved in cold-storage at the Brookings Institute since the Reagan Administration. Jonah Goldberg on National Review agrees:
The stimulus bill has failed. Barack Obama has failed. The Trojan Horse of Hope and Change crashed into the guardrail of reality, revealing an army of ideologues and activists inside.I agree with The Corner's Mark Hemingway about the risk "this emergency spending will become part of the baseline, growing government to a staggering degree in a single impetuous leap." Yet, for all that, the added spending might not even boost the economy--even the New York Times concedes Japan's similar two-decade old stimulus experiment is a failure.
Now, before I continue, let me say that Barack Obama will still be popular, he will still get things done, and he will declare victory after signing a stimulus bill.
But Obama’s moment is gone, and politics is about nothing if not moments.
The stimulus bill was a bridge too far, an overplayed hand, ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag. The legislation’s primary duty was never to stimulate the economy, but to stimulate the growth of government, the scope of the state.
By spending hundreds of billions on things that have absolutely nothing to do with providing an immediate stimulus for the economy, Democrats hoped to make a down payment on their dream government. The billions for student aid, expanded welfare and health-care benefits, and bailouts for profligate state governments; the hundreds of millions for better museums and prettier government buildings; and the millions for smoking-cessation programs and bee insurance aren't just items on crapulent Democrats’ wish list. The budget bloating was deliberate.
Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal:
Meanwhile, the inquest on President Obama's great stimulus mistake continues.And see Charles Krauthammer in Friday's WaPo:
His serious and consequential policy mistake is that he put his prestige behind not a new way of breaking through but an old way of staying put. This marked a dreadful misreading of the moment. And now he's digging in. His political mistake, which in retrospect we will see as huge, is that he remoralized the Republicans. He let them back in the game.
Mr. Obama has a talent for reviving his enemies. He did it with Hillary Clinton, who almost beat him after his early wins, and who was given the State Department. He has now done it with Republicans on the Hill. This is very nice of him, but not in his interests. Mr. Obama should have written the stimulus bill side by side with Republicans, picked them off, co-opted their views. Did he not understand their weakness? They had no real position from which to oppose high and wasteful spending, having backed eight years of it with nary a peep. They started the struggle over the stimulus bill at a real disadvantage. Then four things: Nancy Pelosi served up old-style pork, Mr. Obama swallowed it, Republicans shocked themselves by being serious, and then they startled themselves by being unified. But it was their seriousness that was most important: They didn't know they were! They hadn't been in years!
One senses in a new way the disaster that is Nancy Pelosi. She was all right as leader of the opposition in the Bush era, opposition being joyful and she being by nature chipper. She is tough, experienced, and of course only two years ago she was a breakthrough figure, the first female speaker. But her public comments are often quite mad—we're losing 500 million jobs a month; here's some fresh insight on Catholic doctrine—and in a crisis demanding of creativity, depth and the long view, she seems more than ever a mere ward heeler, a hack, a pol. She's not big enough for the age, is she? She's not up to it.
Whatever happens in the Senate, Republicans have to some degree already won.
It's not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It's not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.
It's the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus -- and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress's own budget office says won't be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.