It's striking how little empathy Democrats seem to have for the economic troubles facing ordinary Americans. While unemployment and underemployment rates remain sky-high, economic growth falters. During the last quarter of 2009, gross domestic product grew 1.4 percent, but that figure fell to 0.9 percent in the first quarter of this year and just 0.4 percent in the second. "Now the fun stuff starts!" Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. said in a bubbly interview with Time magazine last week regarding the administration's stimulus plan. "This is a chance to do something big, man!"
The team at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has more interest in redecorating the Oval Office than in feeling your pain. In fact, it is downright excited to take advantage of the economic downturn to push the stuff that otherwise could never be done. At the top of the list have been the so-called green projects that accounted for about one-sixth of the first $814 billion stimulus package. These are the hopelessly unprofitable ventures that companies develop because they know they are just the ticket for a fat check from Uncle Sam, as long as they can be somehow construed as environmentally friendly.
Chief among such schemes is the administration's multibillion-dollar effort to kill the internal-combustion engine. The Department of Energy, for example, went on a $5 billion Recovery Act spending binge that used federal tax dollars "to electrify America's transportation sector." This amount included $465 million for Tesla Motors, which as of Aug. 4 reported delivering a total of 1,200 laptop-battery-powered roadsters for $109,000 each. The vehicles are designed to provide Hollywood leftists like George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio with a warm feeling inside about how much they are helping the environment - at your expense.
Those with lesser means can enjoy the massively subsidized Chevy Volt that is manufactured by the administration-owned General Motors. By the end of next year, GM plans on producing 10,000 of the cars for $41,000 each. The price would be substantially higher were it to reflect subsidies like the $240 million poured into production facilities and $151 million handed to the Korean firm LG Chem to make batteries for the vehicle. The stimulus even promised $2,000 worth of "free" equipment for up to 4,400 Volt buyers allowing them to plug in their cars at home. No wonder Mr. Biden is charged up.
Another $8 billion in stimulus money is being sunk into creating a high-speed passenger rail network for the benefit of the tiny fraction of Americans who travel by choo choo, like Mr. Biden. Earlier this month, the Federal Railroad Administration announced it had $2.3 billion in rail grants available, but 10 states together submitted requests for $7.8 billion in high-speed rail "development" programs, which suggests the full pricetag for this boondoggle could reach staggering levels if it's allowed to spread.
There's no end to the number of big-dollar projects in which the U.S. government could invest, including $100 billion for a green "smart grid" electricity project. "God, wouldn't it be wonderful?" Mr. Biden mused. It would indeed be fun stuff for everyone other than the 129 million taxpayers who would be stuck paying all of this administration's bills.
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By Rand Paul
Obama acts as though we no longer have a Constitution