Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pork Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

When is pork not pork? When it's in a stimulus package as opposed to a budget bill.

The AP's Calvin Woodward analyzed President Obama's statements just before his prime-time news conference:
OBAMA: "I know that there are a lot of folks out there who've been saying, 'Oh, this is pork, and this is money that's going to be wasted,' and et cetera, et cetera. Understand, this bill does not have a single earmark in it, which is unprecedented for a bill of this size. ... There aren't individual pork projects that members of Congress are putting into this bill."

THE FACTS: There are no "earmarks," as they are usually defined, inserted by lawmakers in the bill. Still, some of the projects bear the prime characteristics of pork - tailored to benefit specific interests or to have thinly disguised links to local projects.

For example, the latest version contains $2 billion for a clean-coal power plant with specifications matching one in Mattoon, Ill., $10 million for urban canals, $2 billion for manufacturing advanced batteries for hybrid cars, and $255 million for a polar icebreaker and other "priority procurements" by the Coast Guard.
What bothered me more was this, from his prime-time news conference:
It is absolutely true that we can't depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector. But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life.

It is only government that can break the vicious cycle, where lost jobs lead to people spending less money, which leads to even more layoffs. And breaking that cycle is exactly what the plan that's moving through Congress is designed to do.
I have trouble with the words "it is only government that can break the vicious cycle." I still believe the private sector can heal itself if the money is spent in the right places and the tax cuts go where they need to.

We didn't spend our way out of the Great Depression -- ultimately WWII's wartime industry demand ended that. A lot of people are starting to see the pork in the package and they're letting Congress know they don't want it, stimulating or not. It's no surprise the Republicans are emboldened by that and are refusing to sit this one out. The party people put in the trash can a few months ago now has a new mission as the party of fiscal responsibility, and working under that mission statement, they can start to repair the damage from the Bush years.

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