Archive for category Stimulus

Never Been a Fund Like the Stimulus Barack Obama

John Hinderaker over at Powerline does a nice job of examining some of the basic resemblances between the Obama administration and the European National Socialist programs of the 30s.  This doesn’t mean Nazi with all their racial horrors; people forget that even outside of Mussolini’s Italy, Fascism was considered the “Wave of the Future” by many useful idiots.  And Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is a tour-de-force on the subject of how fascism was a pathology of the Left, not the right.

Obama’s early personal tours overseas after his election showed him to be completely out of his depth when dealing with foreign leaders, and if Luigi Barzini is to be believed, there was always a substantial segment of the Italian population that never really took him seriously, or at least saw him for the fundamentally unserious leader that he was.

But it was Evita Peron who had the good fortune to have Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice write a musical about her.  “Benito on Broadway” probably never got very far because of WWII.  Turning the hideously murderous and mentally unstable Che Guevara into a folk-hero Greek chorus is forgivable – barely – only because the music itself is so good, and because nobody takes the actual history in a Broadway music very seriously, anyway.

Obama’s overseas trips also brought to mind Webber’s song about Evita’s “Rainbow Tour,” where she, too, found some popular acclaim with little policy success to show for it.  And the Stimulus was always a case of buying people off with their own money, or perhaps their childrens’ and grandchildrens’.  The program produced little in the way of actual stimulus, largely amounted to a massive transfer of debt from states and localities to the federal government, and a transfer of wealth from the taxpayers and their progeny to Obama’s political friends.

Now comes word that the various federal inspectors general charged with looking after the Stimulus funds have opened over 1900 separate investigations into potential mischief.

The government’s chief spending watchdogs have already secured nearly 600 convictions and judgments against people and companies accused of misusing stimulus funds and have a whopping 1,900 investigations currently open into possible wrongdoing, officials say.

The wave of scrutiny more than three years after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed by Congress early in the Obama administration means the question of how money was managed early in the program is certain to extend well into the next year as many of the current investigations come to conclusion.

When the money keeps rolling out you don’t keep books
You can tell you’ve done well by the happy grateful looks
Accountants only slow things down, figures get in the way
Never been a lady loved as much as Eva Peron

I know there’s a better-lit version out there with the current cast, but even Mandy Patinkin’s voice projects a desperation, anger, and contempt that Ricky Martin can only conjure up in his worst nightmares.

There is, as yet, no evidence of personal corruption by the Obama, rumors of Hawaiian retirement plans notwithstanding, but Illinois politicians of both parties have a long history of making sure their clients remember them when the time comes.  Running that to ground will probably prove impossible, but for me, it’ll be enough to send them into retirement, no matter how plush.

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GE, We Bring Bad Ideas To Light

In  a prior post, I mentioned that Obama’s favorite courtier CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, was part of a Jobs & Competitiveness Council, ostensibly tasked with finding ways to put Americans to work.  It’s the kind of thing that government always says it’s doing, anyway.  After all, we have a Commerce Department, a Labor Department, an Education Department, and dozens, if not hundreds, of bureaus, agencies, subalterns, and fiefdoms devoted exclusively to this problem.

From the bureaucracy’s point of view, they’ve spent decades of time, billions of taxpayer dollars, and millions in campaign contributions to get where they are, and they’re not going to let a hand-picked set of toadies show them up.  The beauty of it is that either their success or their failure shows that our actual redundant population lives and works within 10 miles of the Capitol.

If by now anyone at all has any faith left in this kind of commission, it should be put to rest by its initial recommendations.

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I Don’t Know. The Administration Has Seemed Pretty Shovel-Ready To Me From Day 1.

By now, you’ve probably seen this rueful admission by President Obama – evidently part of a longer comedy routine – that the stimulus didn’t actually do much the stimulate:

Over at Powerline, Scott Johnson takes Obama to task for laughing at unemployment, and imagines Obama & Immelt as the new Hope & Crosby, and suggests The Road to Tripoli as a working title for their first picture.  I was thinking The Road to Serfdom or The Road to Ruin, myself.

In all seriousness, though, isn’t this just a president who realizes he has a real vulnerability, and is trying to laugh at it, at his own error?  Is this reallly all that different from Bush pretending to search the Oval Office for the WMDs, the video for the White House Press Dinner that had the lefties in a snit a few years back?

Obama’s lousy at it, because he takes himself too seriously, and really can’t laugh at himself.  I’ve never seen him do it, anyway.  Bush had great comedic timing and a real sense of humility.

Of course, as an indictment of his competence, it’s far worse than Bush’s joke.  Bush’s knowledge was limited to what his intelligence apparatus brought him, his perceptions were shared by the rest of the world.  Many argued against going into Iraq, but virtually nobody thought Saddam wasn’t building or maintaining an arsenal of WMDs.

Obama not only got the macro wrong (Germany, for instance, has made different fiscal choices), but also, in the most generous interpretation of these comments, didn’t even bother to do due diligence about where the next couple of generations’ money was going when he spent it.  A less generous interpretation – consistent with the Alinskyite acolyte – is that he knew perfectly well that it was going to bureaucrats, and now wants to be seen as fixing the problems that he himself created.

The press conference was the rollout of the first half of Obama’s so-called Jobs & Competitiveness Council, the “fast action” steps, in favored courtier co-chair Jeffrey Immelt’s words.  But that’s for another post.


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We Could Start By Repealing ObamaCare

President Obama claims in this morning’s Wall Street Journal to want to reduce the regulatory burden on American business, and so has ordered a review:

This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It’s a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

I can remember hearing this sort of thing from every President since Jimmy Carter.  You’ll note that the government is now considerably larger, more restrictive, and more intrusive than it was 35 years ago. Their failure is, in part, explainable by the nature of bureaucracy.  Agencies fight interminable turf wars, and any attempt to systematically get them to play well together is doomed to failure.  The FCC, for instance, insists on trying to regulate the Internet even in the face of specific Supreme Court decisions denying them the authority.  Imagine how much more combative they are when the only opponents are other bureaucrats.

Philip Howard in his classic, The Death of Common Sense, notes how the USDA requires floors in certain food operations to be clean, while OSHA requires them to be dry.  Good luck with that one.

The EPA has become a mini super-government unto itself, its authority reinforced by the automatic standing that many professional environmental lobbying groups have to bring suit on behalf of, “the environment.”  Aside from trying to limit our breathing, ot currently is preventing the Border Patrol from patrolling parts of the border, meaning it’s exercising control not only over every aspect of manufacturing, it’s arrogating the right to regulate other federal agencies.

The FDA has tried, and will no doubt try again, to use price as a measure for approving medicine.  As the president professes to be worried about medical innovation.

Of course, regulation isn’t even the major retardant of economic growth – government spending is.  Obamacare amounts to a gigantic increase in the percentage of GDP explicitly devoted to government spending.  The so-called stimulus hasn’t even been spent yet, largely because the same government didn’t know that there was no such thing as a “shovel-ready” project.

Coming after a miserable electoral repudiation of his policies, Obama’s comments recall President Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union Address.  Realizing that he wouldn’t be able to push through large pieces of legislation, he famously declared that “the era of big government is over,” and embarked on a program of increasing regulation.  Obama realizes much the same thing, but also recognizes that it will take years for bureaucracies, new and old, to absorb their new powers under Health Care reform, financial regulatory reform, and his expansive readings of executive authority.

Either Obama realizes this, and knows that he can give the appearance of understanding the problem without really giving substantive ground, or he doesn’t really understand the problem.

The subhead on his oped reads, “If the FDA deems saccharin safe enough for coffee, then the EPA should not treat it as hazardous waste.”  Maybe we can get him to do the same thing with carbon dioxide.

If the FDA deems saccharin safe enough for coffee, then the EPA should not treat it as hazardous waste.

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Lipstick On a Pig

Bruce Nussbaum over at BusinessWeek reports that the Obama Administration has hired Edward Tufte, probably the most innovative data design guy around, to help explain the stimulus spending:

“I will be serving on the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. This Panel advises The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, whose job is to track and explain $787 billion in recovery stimulus funds.”

Make no mistake.  Tufte is brilliant.  He didn’t invent either one of these graphs, but he popularized them in his book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.  In both cases, click to enlarge.

Here is a Paris train timetable:

And here is a chart of Napoleon’s Moscow campaign.  The thickness of the line is proportional to the number of men remaining, and the bottom line is the temperature, which tracks from right to left, as it follows the retreat:

They’re brilliant, simple, clean, and convey huge amounts of information.

Nussbaum is right when he says that this is a smart choice, although I think just emphasizes that the Administration thinks their stimulus problem is one of presentation rather than substance.  Bad data can’t be fixed by good presentation, at least not honestly, and I wonder if and when Tufte will get frustrated with the lousy data he’s being asked to present.  In fact, it may almost be worse if he succeeds.  We’ve seen how poor the stimulus data is already, and superb presentation will only act as propaganda.

For an example of equally inventive data visualization, see here.  (h/t: Powerline)

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Plus ca Change…

From Life magazine, about the WPA pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair:

Last week, as controversy continued to gather over the newly completed WPA building at the World’s Fair, the exhibit seemed destined to become the nation’s No. 1 “boondoggle.”  Designed primarily to acquaint Fair visitors with the scope and efficiency of the WPA, the exhibit has thus far created the opposite impression.  To build it, $250,000 was appropriated.  By the time the Fair opened the pavilion was incomplete and had already cost $544,000 according to its engineers.  Though characterized as a relief project, it was discovered thst on one day only 17.7% of the men engaged in building it were relief workers.

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More On That Stimulus Money

So I thought, for just a moment, that I had figured out just how Colorado’s Congressional delegation got expanded to upwards of 64 districts.  There are two parts to the report – who got the contract and where the work will actually be done.  So for this contract, the work is done at Ft. Drum, NY’s CD-23.  And here, there’s no Congressional District at all, I suppose.  But, alas, it turns out that Colorado’s 23rd Congressional District isn’t mentioned at all on the list, so that can’t be it.  It would have made sense, them confusing our Bill Owens for their Bill Owens, but no.

So looking at the list of recipients, I see where Nederland Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, and Heating Corporation received $91,595.  I’m not even going to ask.

And about that $912 that the Teller County School District received, that was apparently part of a larger, $10,037 grant.  The $912 was for infrastructure, but the project description mentions none of that:

No jobs were created. Funding is being used to assist current employees in obtainining credentialing and improving educational background. Employees are also being trained to communicate with two Hispanic families moving into the area.

So no jobs were created.  Current employees are getting to go to enrichment programs, which I’m sure will no doubt raise their market value when they decide to move, and someday may help their young charges do better at school, but hardly counts as “stimulative.”  Likewise the Rosetta Stone software they’re getting for the new families moving in.  No reason at all to use the money teaching those families English, which is of far greater economic value in an English-speaking country, one would think.

Ah, the Stimulus, the gift that keeps on giving, although not quite in the way it was advertised.  Go look at the lists yourself!  It’s hours of good, clean fun!

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Weep Not, Ben; Other Opportunities Abound

Sadly, Rocky Mountain Alliance Blogger Ben DeGrow has declined the chance to run in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District.  Maybe he’s angling for one of those jobs created in the Colorado 30th.

That’s right.  At the bargain price of just of $1 million, the Federal Government has created or saved 14 jobs in CD-30.  Of course, the additional 14 jobs created in CD-64 came for only $33,000.  Of course, the folks down in Greenwood Village, who saw 650 jobs created, at a net loss of $111 million to that zip code, are positively steaming with jealousy.  And I’m sure that the New Energy Economy will benefit from the loss of $60 million locally by the National Science Foundation.  And, Teller County Schools, don’t spend all $912 in one place.  Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, Michelle.

Of course, we know this is all true, since Governor Ritter has signed a Statement of Transparency stating that he intends to ask for and spend the Stimulus money involved.

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