- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

It was made out to be like one of those action movies in which the bomb is ticking, millions of people are in danger of being blown to smithereens, and James Bond or some other hero has just seconds to deactivate this complicated apparatus.

The hero in this case was President Obama. He said in February that unemployment could go as high as 9 percent and hordes of Americans would writhe in misery if Congress did not race lickety-split to enact a 1,071-page, $800 billion stimulus bill unread by anyone in either chamber.

He got his wish, but the need for speed was utterly contrived, as much fiction as the Bond yarns, because here we are, months later, and just $44 billion of the money has been spent, none of which has stimulated much of anything. What America has received instead is the highest unemployment rate in 25 years - 9.4 percent - plus an essentially pointless increase in economy-crushing debt - and, of course, more promises.

The promises come from Mr. Obama again, this time a guarantee of 600,000 jobs “saved or created” this summer by giving the laggard stimulus package a kick in the pants. He did not explain how he would administer this kick, and commentators have noted what an outright fraud it is to talk about this program “saving” jobs, seeing as how there is no way to measure such a thing.

The likelihood is more of the same - people get extra dollars from the government and then do roughly the equivalent of hiding them under the mattress. After all, times are hard, risk is at hand, and the last thing consumers want is to resume the excess that created our problems in the first place. It’s difficult, as well, to step up stimulus construction projects for an infrastructure that was only hurting, to begin with, because of the political misdirection of the billions spent on it annually.

Although some economists have been cheering this adventure, others at the Heritage Foundation and elsewhere have noted that the chief way you get all this money to inject into the economy is first to take it out of the economy.

In other words, you take a step backward to take a step forward. Journeys relying on that technique don’t get you very far. That’s one reason ultraspending has never been nearly so good at ending recessions as helping to bring on future difficulties, and do we ever have some of those to worry about.

Remember that on top of the stimulus comes the president’s over-the-top budget proposal, beginning with a health care plan that could chew up $1.5 trillion during the next decade. There are all the bailouts, the takeovers, the welfare-state extensions and, waiting for us down the road like a huge, monster Satan risen out of the underworld, are tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements.

Put it all together, calculate the likelihood that higher interest rates will cause the debt to mushroom, ponder the inflationary risks of printing money as an alternative, and disaster sooner or later comes to look far more probable than the chance Mr. Obama’s economic whiz kids will outwit the way the world ordinarily works.

Had the stimulus package been more slowly, carefully, cautiously constructed - had it included far more tax breaks for businesses, for instance - it could have done some good. But it wasn’t, and what we now have instead is Democratic insistence on actually increasing some corporate taxes.

And so, enough - quit this stimulus thing, retreat, spend no more. That’s the advice from Heritage, and it seems sound to me. I would go further and advise voters to consider emulating at least this once what’s happening in Europe - a move from left to right in the voting booth - in the next congressional election.

Jay Ambrose is former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard News Service.


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