Friday, January 23, 2009

What the Stimulus Looks Like

*update* NY Times reports that Peter Orszag, formerly director of the Congressional Budget Office (quoted in the Washington Times post, quoted below) and current director of the OMB wrote a letter to Congress stating that his team's analysis shows that 75% of the funding would be dispersed within 18 months *update*

David Brooks gives us a ring-side seat of the House Appropriations Committee's work. It looks like you'd think it would: Like a big slab of pork. That's right, Congress is mortgaging my son's country's future on fruitless projects that will do nothing to stimulate the economy until the recession is already a fading memory.

According to The Washington Post, of the $30 billion devoted to highway spending, only $4 billion will be spent in the next two years. Less than $3 billion of the $18.5 billion for renewable energy and less than half the financing for school construction will be spent by 2011.

The Appropriations Committee chairman, David Obey, fulminated against the C.B.O. Wednesday, and the uselessness of economists in general, but he had no answer to these findings...

On Tuesday, President Obama was inaugurated and vowed a new era. On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee met and showed the old era was very much alive. Democratic subcommittee chairmen sat like potted plants because all power was wielded by Chairman Obey. Republicans were in the dark because of an information embargo placed on the majority staff.

President Obama is clearly going to have to show the hard way that he meant what he said about bringing change. He didn’t run for president just to sign whatever bills the Old Bulls put on his desk.

He’s going to have to prove the hard way that he meant what he said about being pragmatic and evidence-based. That means he won’t sweep a C.B.O. study under the rug simply because the findings are inconvenient.

He’s going to have to show that his plans have credibility, that a stimulus bill is really a stimulus bill, and not a Christmas tree for every special interest desire.

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