- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 15, 2001

Despite solid economic evidence to the contrary, Democratic leaders still believe the federal government can spend its way out of a recession.

That is what Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle is attempting to do this week in a pork-filled, waste-ridden, big-spending economic recovery bill that he thinks is the solution to all of the economy's woes.

One of the many provisions Mr. Daschle and company have stuffed into their bill calls for $220 million in new spending to buy millions of tons of agricultural commodities.

After blocking any action on the president's trade expansion bill, which would open up new overseas markets for American agricultural products, the Daschle Democrats want the feds to be the buyer of last resort, asking beleaguered taxpayers to foot the bill.

The nearly three-dozen farm commodities that the Democrats' so-called stimulus bill would buy include bison meat, eggplant, cauliflower, black beans, cabbage, chickpeas, pumpkins, red tart cherries and dried plums.

Democrats and labor have repeatedly attacked the Republican economic stimulus bill, made up largely of accelerated tax cuts for businesses and individuals, as a tax-cut bill "for big business."

But the Democrats' proposed $10 million in assistance to the North American Bison Cooperative would subsidize big bison ranch-owners like media fat cat Ted Turner in North Dakota. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota, who was raging about the declining budget surpluses and impending deficits just a few months ago, put the special interest giveaway into the bill.

The Democrats' spending spree, drafted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, doesn't end there. The bill includes sweetheart deals for the well-heeled movie industry and American Indian tribes, among many other special interests who give big bucks to the Democrats' campaign war chests.

In the bill's meager business tax writeoffs for new investments in capital assets, Mr. Baucus and his friends added "films" among the assets that would qualify for the tax breaks. So now the Democrats are helping movie moguls?

In another section of the bill, Mr. Baucus would give the tribes new tax-exempt authority to issue "three new types of private activity bonds" to start businesses. And they would give them even broader authority to begin businesses in special "enterprise zones," which qualify for special tax concessions.

Other specially selected business interests would be helped under their bill, including the poultry industry, which sells chicken manure to electric-power-generating plants.

A lot of other material gets mixed up in poultry droppings. So, to make absolutely sure there is no misunderstanding what is allowable for the tax credit, the bill states that "Poultry waste means poultry manure and litter, including wood shavings, straw, rice hulls and other bedding material for the disposition of manure."

These and other giveaways have been stuffed into the Democrats' $67 billion bill that is big on spending for longer and larger unemployment compensation and other workers benefits, but weak on the tax cuts needed to jump-start the economy and put people back to work.

Mr. Daschle moved to add another $20 billion to the bill that would pay for a variety of new infrastructure and public works projects under the guise of improving homeland security spending that the White House says is unnecessary and risks fueling inflation and higher interest rates.

It is almost as if Mr. Daschle does not want to stimulate the economy and create jobs so the unemployed can get back to work. Indeed, Republicans believe the Democrats have deliberately delayed action on the stimulus bill to keep the economic downturn going because it would improve their chances in the midterm elections.

The Baucus/Daschle bill now before the Senate reflects the Democratic view that the "Bush economy" is nearing a depression, "and only a new New Deal can save it," economist Kevin Hassett wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week.

But more government spending has never pulled any country out of a recession. It did not work in the Great Depression, when, after four years of massive public works spending, unemployment remained in high-double digits. It has not worked in Japan, where, despite huge public works expenditures, their economy has been in a deep slump for more than a decade.

The U.S. economy was in the midst of a comeback before the September 11 terrorist attacks because of the Fed interest rate cuts and the Bush tax cuts that were passed last spring. And the fundamentals are all there for pulling out of our present economic slump, Mr. Hassett argues. Productivity, which usually falls before a recession, is rising sharply. The stock market has been less volatile. Automobile sales are stronger.

What this economy needs is a spurt of renewed confidence that can only come from giving people and businesses some stepped-up tax relief to boost investments and productivity. More pork barrel spending will only prolong the recession.

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