How porky can stimulus be, if Clyburn’s not getting his bridge?

There's a certain irony — not necessarily a contradiction, but irony — in the fact that Republicans are pinning their opposition to the ginormous stimulus bill the House passed yesterday on allegations that it's just a bunch of pork for Democrats' home districts…

… while the favorite public works proposal of the third most-powerful Democrat in the House is NOT included.

Yes, I get it that Jim Clyburn says it's not for a lack of political will to fund it, but rather a matter of those pesky environmentalists tying it up with a lawsuit. He maintains that if it weren't for the blasted tree-huggers, he'd have gotten the span between Lone Star and Rimini funded.

But it's still ironic. If this project that he has wanted so badly for so long can't make it into an unprecedented, extraordinary $3.2 billion infusion of federal funds into South Carolina, it's probably missed its best chance ever.

As for what IS in the $819 billion extravaganza, I have not audited it to see whether it's pork or not. It does occur to me that just about anything that would meet the standards of what the stimulus is supposed to be — extra spending, on stuff the federal government would not normally spend on, "shovel-ready" and labor-intensive — it would probably be something that someone could legitimately call "pork" if they are so inclined. Think about it: What IS pork? Generally, it means something spent in some elected representative's district that would not meet normal standards of being a national spending priority (or state priority, when we're talking pork on that level of government). Well, presumably if it were something that had been determined to be a national priority, it would have been funded already.

Bottom line, I don't know what the percentage of overlap between the two sets (good stimulus projects on the one hand, "pork" on the other) would be — say, 80 or 90 percent, just to venture a wild guess? — but it seems like there would be very strong correlation.

Or am I missing something?

Anyway, I made that point to a colleague earlier today, and he said, "Yeah, well what about this mandate that NASA spend on fighting global warming — that's not a job-producer." I said, "well, it would probably mean jobs for the engineers and techno-geeks required to implement it." He said, "but NASA already has engineers." And I said, "Yes, but if what I was reading in The Economist this morning is correct, a lot of them would otherwise be losing their jobs because Obama doesn't want to follow through on the Bush goals of going back to the Moon and on to Mars." That's gotta mean some latter-day Werner von Brauns joining the unemployment lines. (Which is a whole nother debate I may raise in a separate post.)

I don't know; we're probably both right. Which means Democrats can say this is a great stimulus bill, and Republicans say it's a bunch of pork, and nobody be lying…

14 thoughts on “How porky can stimulus be, if Clyburn’s not getting his bridge?

  1. Doug Ross

    Heritage Foundation estimated cost of the stimulus bill: about $22,500 for every American family with children.
    $300 to every senior citizen. Purely an attempt to buy votes.
    This might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back finally to convince people that the government is the problem and not the solution.
    The easiest solution would be to suspend all FICA tax for the year. Instant money every week in the paycheck, instant access to more cash for every business in the country. But that won’t happen because it removes the ability for the government to control where the money goes as well as removing the ability for those who do not pay taxes to get their handout.
    It’ll be just like the South Carolina agency responsible for unemployment. They screwed up and blamed Sanford for not approving a loan to keep them afloat. Then three weeks later they came back for another loan that was even larger. No accountability, free access to other people’s money = disaster.

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  2. Brad Warthen

    As I said — you can CALL it “buying votes,” both via spending and tax cuts (tax cuts, you know, are one of the best, purest, most direct ways that politicians buy votes — nothing like a check in the voter’s pocket; it beats the heck out of a bridge in the voter’s town).
    But as I also said, almost anything that WOULD stimulate the economy — spending on projects that were not previously deemed priorities, OR tax cuts — would be something you could call buying votes. The projects or the tax cuts might be just the thing to do, but anyone calling them “vote-buying” would have a strong argument on his side.
    So I guess you makes your choice and you takes your side…

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  3. p.m.

    “As for what IS in the $819 billion extravaganza, I have not audited it to see whether it’s pork or not.”
    Well, gee whiz, Brad, maybe looking at what’s in it would be a good idea before anyone passes judgment on it.
    Your link above merely gave me another chance to join the New York Times. I’d rather not.
    Any idea where I could find a trustworthy account of the contents of the bill?

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  4. Bart

    p.m. and others interested. You can go to “www.rules.house.gov” and get a copy. I downloaded a copy this morning. (would have sent you to Huffington Post but didn’t want to ruin your day or my reputation)
    It is an eye opener to say the least. I will withhold comment until I read more except for this one thought.
    How can any reasonable body of individuals think they can come up with a bill totalling almost a trillion dollars in less than 30 days and expect it to be comprehensive, thorough, and reasonable? This entire episode reminds me of the “Sky is Falling” mentality we witnessed when the first trillion dollar bailout was rammed through without any reasonable thought behind it.
    If you put it in the context of how got into this mess in the first place, it is like the people who had no business borrowing money they couldn’t pay back being suckered by the lenders who knew they couldn’t pay it back but pushed it off on them anyway, knowing that you and I, the taxpayers would eventually be stuck with the tab.
    Well, the itemized bill is here and I would like a lot more detail on just who is eligible for funding. ACORN is already being bantered about as a potential recipient of as much as $5 billion. I seriously doubt that but considering the fact that the financial guy from ACORN was on Neil Cavuto tonight, who knows.

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  5. Lee Muller

    The Pelosi Pork Bill costs $217,000 for every job Obama claims it will create.
    Only 4% of it goes to roads, bridges, airports and seaports.
    Only 25% of it is spent in 2009, so what’s the big rush to pass it?
    Answer: Before the American people can see what’s in it.
    The spending is spread out over 4 years.
    Most of the spending doesn’t even begin until 2010, for the election cycle.
    The free market will have worked us out of the Pelosi-Dodd Recession by then.
    It contains every garbage program that couldn’t pass in the last 20 years, on its own or bobtailed.

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  6. Brad Warthen

    p.m., just trying to provide a service and give y’all a place to discuss the stimulus package. I’m busy with other things today, getting out the editorial pages, dealing with internal admin matters (called senior staff meeting this morning in which I had to wear my VP hat) and looking into issues of importance here in S.C. We met with the Employment Security Commission this afternoon; still sorting that out — we’d heard the governor’s side, now we’ve heard the commission’s side, still a mess. Once I pull the threads together it will probably be a column.
    Sorry about the NYT thing; I thought they’d made their content available to all for free. Maybe I was mistaken.

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  7. Lee Muller

    Brad, your newspaper failed to meet its civic responsibility to report the contents of this $825,000,000,000 spending bill.

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  8. Lee Muller

    Clyburn inserted language into the bill to override the state constitutions, to have the federal government bypass the governors and legislators who might not want to waste all this money.
    What an arrogant, ignorant twit he is.
    Like Obama, James Clyburn is an Affirmative Action officeholder, who had his job created for him by liberal whites.
    I hope lawsuits bog up every bit of the Democrat’s illegal legislation. I would love to see this spending bottled up and not one cent hit the street, and the economy recover without the interference of this little socialists.

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  9. bud

    Clyburn inserted language into the bill to override the state constitutions …
    -Lee
    Can you find a copy of the state constitutions on the internets?

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  10. Lee Muller

    Yes, I can. Why?
    You need to look at the U.S. Constitution.
    The federal government has no authority to disburse money to the state or local governments. Congress certainly has no authority to subvert the state appropriations processes.

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  11. p.m.

    Bart, thanks, I have downloaded all 647 pages of the bill, and I’ve read 147, leaving myself a mere 500 pages.
    Brad, I don’t know that the NYT costs anything to join other than my pride and too much time. To wit: I don’t trust the NYT to tell me any part of the story that doesn’t suit its agenda. I already get the Washington Post “table of contents” every day by email; its point of view is left enough.
    For ye who might be curious, H.R.1 (the stimulus bill) contains this interesting provision:
    “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool.”
    Thank goodness. :(

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  12. slugger

    Do not ring the Liberty Bell to loudly you might wake up those asleep at the switch.
    This so called stimulas package could be rightly named Fools Gold.

    Reply

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