On the stimulus package’s one-year anniversary on Feb. 17, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stated that taxpayers had “gotten their money’s worth.” However, it is difficult to understand how multimillion-dollar “stimulus” programs that research methamphetamine’s effects on rats, build turtle crossings under highways, put up roadside signs to advertise stimulus programs and produce few long-term jobs are effective uses of taxpayer dollars. In Washington, $977,346 is being spent on a program that will provide just one job and give a few hundred BlackBerrys to smokers to help them kick the habit.
In February 2009, supporters of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which has since ballooned to $862 billion, claimed the stimulus package would keep unemployment from going higher than 8 percent; create 3.5 million jobs, 90 percent of which would be in the private sector; and pave the way for long-term economic recovery. Yet, in the 12 months since the legislation’s passage, unemployment rose as high as 10.2 percent and remains at 9.7 percent while 2.8 million people have lost their jobs.
Concerns over the efficiency and efficacy of the stimulus package have sparked the attention of leading economists, many of whom are uneasy about the ever-increasing amount of government spending and rapidly rising national debt. Harvard University economics professor Robert Barro estimated in a Feb. 23 Wall Street Journal article that when figured over five years, the stimulus package would infuse $600 billion of public expenditures into the economy while siphoning $900 billion from the coffers of private entities.
President Obama assured Americans the stimulus package would focus recovery and growth in the private sector; however, just 140,765 nonpublic jobs have originated from ARRA funding, according to a December analysis by Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. In other words, approximately four of every five jobs created by the ARRA were in the public sector, while 49 of every 50 jobs lost since the stimulus package was enacted were private-sector posts.
The expansion of public programs is plundering from private pocketbooks instead of allowing American enterprises to invest into demand-driven initiatives that effectively and sustainably would grow bottom lines and expand employment opportunities. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), for instance, received $5 billion in the stimulus - 20 times its regular budget over a two-year period. In some states, it has grown by even larger margins. For example, Texas’ WAP will receive $362 million, 5,400 percent over its 2008 allocation of $6 million.
After declaring victory on the first stimulus, the White House and congressional leaders have touted the necessity of a second stimulus, calling nearly every new bill on the House and Senate floor a “jobs bill.” One such piece of legislation that would cost taxpayers $107.6 billion includes an extension of tax breaks that have been renewed annually for years; a second option, estimated to cost $15 billion, includes a tax break for small businesses that hire workers.
Members of Congress understand that if the unemployment rate is not reduced, they may lose their own jobs in November. Too often, however, their employment solution has been to “steer” the economy through massive expenditures. But in their meager attempts to prevent another Great Depression, Congress has accrued the Great Debt. Legislators cannot be allowed to mortgage our children’s future to pay for their spending addiction.
The stimulus has been subject to a great deal of analysis and propaganda, and it is time to set the record straight. Citizens Against Government Waste is launching a new online resource, mywastedtaxdollars.org, which will be a clearinghouse for identifying wasted stimulus dollars. If Washington is allowed to continue its unbridled spending with limited citizen reprisal, the American economy will most certainly suffer damaging consequences.
Despite Mr. Biden’s belief that citizens “got their money’s worth” from the stimulus package, analysis of the programs and their results that will appear on the new Web site will demonstrate otherwise. While policymakers spent $389,357 researching malt liquor and marijuana use in Buffalo, N.Y., and $219,000 finding the relationship between casual sex and alcohol consumption, hardworking Americans lost their salaries. The nation cannot afford another stimulus that pillages the resources of job providers and private citizens. Instead, Congress needs to cut government waste and adopt policies that will reap tangible benefits for the country’s current and future posterity.
Tom Schatz is president of Citizens Against Government Waste.