Saturday, January 31, 2009

How is any of this going to stimulate the economy?

Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats are playing the voters for fools with the so-called stimulus package. The massive $825 billion package is not even targeted on programs to stimulate the economy. Instead, it is laced with runaway government spending for increased welfare, overgrown bureaucracy, pork, political payoffs, and other waste. That runaway spending is causing record smashing deficits of $1.5 trillion or more, equivalent to over 50% of the entire federal budget for fiscal 2008.

For example, the "stimulus" package includes $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts to help "the arts community throughout the United States." Wouldn't want our economy to get behind in the international arts competition. The government is going to borrow $50 million out of the private economy to spend on this, which will result in a net loss of economic output rather than a net gain.

Another $2.1 billion is for Head Start, another program not previously known for stimulating the economy. A further $2 billion is to be spent on Child Care Development Block Grants, which provide day care. We are going to revive economic growth through the federal government spending billions on babysitting, rather than tax cuts for capital investment. A similar initiative involves $120 million to finance part-time work for seniors in community service agencies.

Then there is $500 million to speed the processing of applications for Social Security disability claims. This has already created one net new job in the employment of a person within the Obama Administration assigned to figure out what this has to do with stimulating the economy.

Another $6 billion goes to college and universities. We already spend hundreds of billions on these schools, and such education provides valuable long-term benefits. But this is not a means to spark a booming economy in the short term. The same is true of the $13 billion in Title I grants "to provide extra academic support to help raise the achievement of students at risk of educational failure or to help all students in high-poverty schools meet challenging State academic standards," as the congressional report accompanying the bill explains. Ditto that for the $13 billion in IDEA, Part B State grants to help pay for "the excess costs of providing special education and related services to children with disabilities."

Then there is the effort to stimulate the economy by increasing welfare spending. There is $20 billion for increased food stamps, including lifting restrictions on how long welfare dependents can receive food stamp benefits. Another $1.7 billion is to be spent to help the homeless, not previously in our history a significant source of economic growth. Another $1 billion goes for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program, to help low income families pay their heating bills, a worthy objective that has nothing to do with stimulating the economy. Still another billion goes to the Community Services Block Grant to support "employment, food, housing, health, and emergency assistance to low-income families and individuals." Another $200 million goes for senior nutrition programs, such as Meals on Wheels. Then there is an additional $200 million for AmeriCorps, to help satisfy "increased demand for services for vulnerable populations to meet critical needs in communities across the U.S." Another $5 billion is devoted to public housing. None of this increased welfare spending has anything to do with promoting economic growth. Rather, it retards growth by inducing more dependency on government.

Another $87 billion is to be spent on Medicaid, a welfare program already costing roughly $400 billion per year. Those funds would be spent in part on "family planning services," meaning contraception. Reagan created a 25-year economic boom in part by cutting top marginal income tax rates. Liberal Democrats are now going to try to do it by passing out condoms.

Medicaid is one of the major entitlement programs projected to explode to overwhelming costs in the future. Obama is assuring the more conservative Blue Dog Democrats that he will address runaway entitlement costs as soon as next month. But to start let's increase those costs by almost $100 billion right now.

Then there is the funding to maintain and expand bureaucracy and overall big government spending. The "stimulus" package includes $2.5 billion for the National Science Foundation, $2.0 billion for the National Park Service, $650 million for the U.S. Forest Service, $600 million for NASA, $800 million for AMTRAK, $276 million to the State Department to upgrade and modernize its information technology, $150 million for maintenance work at the Smithsonian Institution, $209 million for maintenance work for the Federal Agricultural Research Service, $44 million for repairs and improvements at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Department of Agriculture, and $245 million to upgrade the information technology of the Farm Service Agency. Borrowing money from the private sector to spend on these bureaucracies will not provide a boost to the economy. It will likely again produce a net loss of output.

A shocking provision provides $1.1 billion for so-called federal comparative effectiveness research in regard to health-care services. The congressional report explaining the stimulus bill says:

By knowing what works best and presenting this information more broadly to patients and healthcare professionals, those items, procedures, and interventions that are most effective to prevent, control, and treat health conditions will be utilized, while those that are found to be less effective and in some cases, more expensive, will no longer be prescribed.

But a government bureaucracy in Washington is never going to know what "items, procedures and interventions are most effective to prevent, control and treat health conditions" for each patient, regardless of how much federal research is done. This is what doctors are for. This bureaucratic initiative is really laying the foundation for the eventual health care rationing to be imposed under the new Obama "universal" health care entitlement program, which is coming soon. I told you so, in previous columns.

To call this spending economic recovery stimulus, however, is an abuse of the English language.

Another abuse is to be found in the $4.2 billion provided to the Neighborhood Stabilization Fund, which provides the funds to local governments to purchase and rehab vacant housing due to foreclosure. The congressional report accompanying the stimulus bill states, "Up to $750 million may be used for a competition for nonprofit entities to enhance the funding included under this heading through capitalization of the funds." Reportedly, this funding is intended to be siphoned off to ACORN, the far-left, rogue, lawbreaking organization prosecuted across the country in the past couple of years for voter fraud. ACORN has also used violent intimidation tactics in the past to pursue its goals, and was heavily involved in housing programs in the past that led to widespread bad loans.

Another $79 billion is to go the states to maintain their runaway government spending, particularly for such spendthrift jurisdictions as California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. High state government spending is also not a source of economic growth.

Then there are other items in the "stimulus" package that may involve desirable government spending, but do not involve stimulating the economy, and should be subject to the normal budget process. These include $3 billion for health care prevention and wellness programs, such as childhood immunizations and other state and local public health programs, $2.4 billion for projects demonstrating carbon capture technology, $17 billion for Pell Grants, $1 billion for Technology Education, $1.9 billion for the Energy Department for "basic research into the physical sciences," $650 million for digital TV coupons to help Americans upgrade to digital cable television, $100 million to reduce lead-based paint hazards for children in low income housing, $400 million for "habitat restoration projects" of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $1.2 billion for summer jobs for youth, $2 billion for Superfund cleanup, and others.

The great Obama's plan to talk and tell the crazy Iranians that they should like us, doesn't appear to be working.

President Barack Obama's olive branch to Iran was seriously snubbed in the past couple of days as key figures within the Islamic nation made it clear that they have no interest in talking with America unless we change our policies.

Even worse, an Iranian government spokesman said Obama's statement on Al Arabiya Wednesday concerning a willingness to talk to Iran "means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed."

Might this alter the press's repeated view the previous eight years that tensions in the Middle East were largely caused by President Bush's refusal to talk to Iran without preconditions concerning that nation's nuclear buildup, and that all would be well in the world if we would just agree to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on any terms?

Another thing we the taxpayers get to pay for. The estimated hospital bill for the 8 babies, 3.2million.

She clearly needs help.

The California woman who gave birth to octuplets is a single mom who already has six other children - and as if that's not enough, they all live with her parents, who last year went bankrupt.

Octo-mom Nadya Suleman, 33, works in a fertility clinic and used the same sperm donor for all 14 kids, neighbors told The Post.

In addition to her octuplets, she has three sets of twins, aged 5, 3, and 2, neighbors said.

Last night Suleman's mom, Angela, improbably insisted that science played no role in the production of this massive brood.

"She was not on fertility drugs," Angela Suleman told The Post.

Suleman's father Ed, a Palestinian immigrant who hails from Jerusalem, brought bags of cookies and diapers into the family's three-bedroom house yesterday. He said the eight new bundles of joy were "God's wish," and added, "I have no idea what to do with God."

Nadya Suleman gave birth to the octuplets Monday at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center.

Her father said, "They're all fine."

Suleman's parents were almost $1 million in debt and declared bankruptcy in March 2008 after foreclosure proceedings began on one of their homes. Ed then went to Iraq to do translation work as a contractor to earn extra money for the family.

Nadya did not plan to have eight babies at once, her mother, Angela, said - in fact, doctors advised her to consider selectively reducing the number of fetuses. But she ignored advice about the risks to both her and her babies, she said.

"What do you suggest she should have done? She refused to have them killed," Angela told the Los Angeles Times, insisting her daughter "is not evil." "That is a very painful thing."

Nadya never expected all eight embryos would take, her mom said.

The birth of octuplets to a single mother with six prior children posed a slew of ethical questions, experts said,.

During in vitro fertilization, the ovaries are stimulated to release an excessive number of eggs, which then are surgically retrieved and fertilized in a petri dish.

Fertility doctors typically never transfer more than two embryos at a time when a woman is under the age of 35 - and transferring eight is a gross violation of accepted practice, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

"I would never do that," said Dr. Jamie Grifo of the NYU Fertility Center, who helped create some of the guidelines currently in place.

"Sometimes patients ask us to do crazy things, but most of the time we are able to precounsel them about the risks," he said. "Some clinics have much poorer success rates and therefore put back many more embryos."

Although twins are common with in-vitro pregnancies, high-order multiples are rare, Grifo said.

If a patient is staunchly anti-abortion and opposed to selective reduction, the doctor has an ethical responsibility to steer them away from situations that could result in high-order multiple births, experts said.

But doctors do not believe it is their place to dictate how many children women can have.

"I don't think it's our job to tell them how many babies they're allowed to have.," Grifo said.

It's unclear where Suleman received her fertility treatments, but based on the success of her prior three sets of twins, there was no medical reason to transfer eight embryos, Grifo said.

It also is unclear how she is going to get the money to pay for 14 children - though welfare is generous in California, which has three times more people getting assistance than any other state.

According to one neighbor, Suleman used the same sperm donor for all 14 kids. The donor was an acquaintance, who after getting married recently, asked her no longer to use his sperm, a neighbor said. "But she did it anyway," the neighbor said.

The six boys and two girls are only the second set of octuplets born alive in the US. They were delivered nine weeks premature and ranged between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces at birth.

Dr. Mandhir Gupta said seven of the babies were breathing without assistance. One was still receiving oxygen through a tube in his nose.

More change, It looks like not paying taxes is part of the change for the new administration.

From the early days of his campaign, Obama made with the flourish that, should he be elected, lobbyists would not be welcome in his new tone Washington, his Washington of change and hope. Soon after the election, Obama’s spokesman John Podesta made a great show of announcing that Obama was insisting on the “strictest ethics rules ever applied” to his ongoing choices for members of his administration and his transition team.

In the early November news conference, Podesta proudly proclaimed that Obama was so interested in distancing himself from the old, business-as-usual Washington that they didn’t care if they were excluding people of long Washington experience with their supposed strict ethics rules. Podesta sternly told reporters, “I’ve heard the complaint that we’re leaving all these extra people on the side, that we’re leaving all the people that know everything out in the cold. So be it. That’s a commitment that is one the American people expect and one the President-elect made.”

Yet within weeks it became clear that this new ethical standard was merely so much window dressing. Now, lobbyists abound in Obama’s administration and have since day one. Not only that, but tax cheats seem to be particularly drawn to the new president.

Several high profile Obama appointees have had major tax issues chief of whom is Timothy Geithner, Obama’s new Secretary of Treasury. But, late last week, it also came to light that Obama’s choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Dsaschle, seemed to have conveniently forgotten to claim a free car and driver as income on his taxes and had somehow made this tax faux pas for years.

Naturally, during the vetting process to be approved as the new HHS head, Daschle mysteriously “remembered” the oversight and “repaid” the IRS $101,943 which is the cost of the free limo service and the interest on the “accidentally” forgotten income tax.

And let us not forget that former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had to withdraw his name for consideration as head of the the Department of Transportation because he is connected to illegal pay-to-play schemes in his state.

Then there are the many lobbyists that have joined the anti-lobbyist president in Washington.

Recently Politico detailed a list of some of the many lobbyists that Barack Obama has seen fit to “bend his rules” to allow into his administration. They find “at least a dozen” lobbyists have entered this purportedly anti-lobbyist administration.

Here is the list of lobbyists joining the Obama administration Politico came up with:

Eric Holder, attorney general nominee, was registered to lobby until 2004 on behalf of clients including Global Crossing, a bankrupt telecommunications firm.

Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year on behalf of the National Education Association.

William Lynn, deputy defense secretary nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for defense contractor Raytheon, where he was a top executive.

William Corr, deputy health and human services secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until last year for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a non-profit that pushes to limit tobacco use.

David Hayes, deputy interior secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until 2006 for clients, including the regional utility San Diego Gas & Electric.

Mark Patterson, chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for financial giant Goldman Sachs.

Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, was registered to lobby until 2005 for clients, including the Coalition for Asbestos Resolution, U.S. Airways, Airborne Express and drug-maker ImClone.

Mona Sutphen, deputy White House chief of staff, was registered to lobby for clients, including Angliss International in 2003.

Melody Barnes, domestic policy council director, lobbied in 2003 and 2004 for liberal advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the American Constitution Society and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Cecilia Munoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs, was a lobbyist as recently as last year for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.

Patrick Gaspard, White House political affairs director, was a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union.

Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff to the president’s assistant for intergovernmental relations, lobbied for the American Association of Justice from 2001 until 2005.

Doubtless this will be just the beginning.

Obama’s lip service to which he subsequently fails to adhere is nothing new. He has built a career on it. For decades in Chicago Obama used as a weapon with which to disarm his opponents his rhetoric of hope-n-change, his breathless exclamations that we all need to be working together. He’s claimed for a decade that he wants to reach across the aisle and work with anyone that wants to do so. Yet, he has no actual voting record to prove the rhetoric. He has talked a great game, but every time it has come to crunch time, Obama always votes for an agenda that is strictly in keeping with the far left.

So, it is clear that his acclaimed rhetoric on ethics is in keeping with his long standing practice of issuing flowery speeches and then voting against his own words. After all, from what we’ve seen so far, Obama will hire anyone he wants quite regardless of his so-called “strict ethics.” Lobbyists and tax cheats quite aside.

Another example of hope and change, at least the change part.

42 people dead; communities iced in and without lifesaving power for heat and cooking; conditions worsening — and FEMA nowhere to be found.

This isn’t a lefty caricature of disaster-response under the Bush administration; it’s real-life unresponsiveness under the leadership of President Obama (whose accession was supposed to mark a “return to competence” in government).

“In some parts of rural Kentucky, they’re getting water the old-fashioned way — with pails from a creek,” writes Associated Press reporter Bruce Schreiner. “There’s not room for one more sleeping bag on the shelter floor. The creative are flushing their toilets with melted snow.”

Schreiner continues:

Local officials were growing angry with what they said was a lack of help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In Grayson County, about 80 miles southwest of Louisville, Emergency Management Director Randell Smith said the 25 National Guardsmen who have responded have no chain saws to clear fallen trees.

“We’ve got people out in some areas we haven’t even visited yet,” Smith said. “We don’t even know that they’re alive.”

Smith said FEMA has been a no-show so far.

“We’re asking people to pack a suitcase and head south and find a motel if they have the means, because we can’t service everybody in our shelter,” said Crittenden County Judge-Executive Fred Brown, who oversees about 9,000 people, many of whom are sleeping in the town’s elementary school.

“I’m not saying we can’t handle it; we’ll hand it,” Smith said. “But it would have made life a lot easier” if FEMA had reached the county sooner, he said.

Marty Hudak, spokesman for Obama FEMA director Nancy Ward, said emergency personnel can’t get to the people living (and dying) in these dangerous disaster areas because it’s, well, too dangerous to do so.

“We have plenty of folks ready to go, but there are some limitations with roads closed and icy conditions,” she told the AP.

“35,000 Dead”

When 12 people died in Kansas in May 2007 as a result of tornadoes, then-candidate Obama blamed the Iraq war for depleting the National Guard of needed resources to help the remaining victims.

“In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas,” Obama said. “Ten thousand people died — an entire town destroyed; turns out that the National Guard in Kansas only had 40 percent of its equipment and they are having to slow down the recovery process.”

This brings up an interesting question. If twelve dead in reality was 10,000 in Obama’s head, shouldn’t this emergency situation, which has left 42 dead (that’s 35,000 in Obamathematics), be deserving of the promptest, most competent response possible?

Regardless, with a state of emergency that severe, and a number of Americans dead or dying, why is Barack Obama’s newly-competent Federal Emergency Management Agency sitting on its hands and waiting for the ice to melt and snow to clear before it actually responds to (or “manages”) this emergency?

Regardless, this is a serious situation which demands serious analysis and response. Like all of America’s natural disasters, the crisis in (majority-white) Kentucky is certainly no place for either side to inject race into the discussion. After all, that’s just unseemly, and neither side would ever do that — right?

Update by Jeff: The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Blair is calling this — you guessed it — “a Katrina moment for President Obama.” He says:

According to the Katrina template, this is all Obama’s fault. Yet Kentucky’s Democrat governor Steve Beshear earlier praised Obama’s swift action … in making a phone call:

“I can’t tell you how appreciative we were,” the governor said. “He not only expressed his concern, but he obviously had the Kentuckians in his thoughts and prayers, and he communicated that to us.”