If you're looking for a boost to the economy, don't look to Congress for the answer. If the proposed stimulus bill is the best possible route out of this recession, our nation could be in for the long haul.
A thorough look at the bill, which is being raced through, reveals that this is nothing more than a clever guise for more wasteful government spending that will do little to immediately address the real need of jumpstarting our economy.
Although it's anyone's guess what the final price tag of the stimulus bill will be, most agree that it will likely be somewhere around $900 billion. That's almost as much as Congress spends in an entire year on discretionary spending.
And once Congress approves the FY2009 Omnibus bill (which includes the funding for many government agencies), lawmakers will have spent more than $1.4 trillion dollars in less than a month. That's more than the combined GDP of Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. By themselves, these bills could be the 15th largest economy, right ahead of Australia.
Of course, the current spending spree will only add to the $1 trillion deficit, and further burden our children and grandchildren (not to mention ourselves) with massive debt.
But set aside the debate over deficit spending. This bill is still a bad idea simply because so little of the money it spends would actually go toward "stimulating" the economy.
The truth is that far too many members of Congress are inserting (in the hundreds and hundreds of pages in the stimulus bill) a number of very expensive projects. It includes:
- $600 million for government cars.
- $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.
- $200 million for repairs to the National Mall.
- $7.7 billion for the federal buildings.
And until recently, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was defending her decision to include money for contraceptives in the stimulus bill. This money has since been removed -- but that only underscores just how poorly this bill fares when exposed to sunshine.
The more that Americans learn about the contents of the bill, the more members of Congress will be forced to justify how their actions would help stimulate the economy.
But perhaps the biggest indictment against the proposed stimulus bill is the Congressional Budget Office's projection that more than half of the unrestricted spending in the bill will occur after 2010. The findings of this non-partisan government agency seriously undermine claims by many members of Congress that not passing this stimulus bill would lead to a financial Armageddon.
The truth is that this bill is just the latest example of Congress throwing money at a problem, hoping it will go away.
Clearly something is desperately needed to stimulate the economy, but spending recklessly while further adding to our national debt is not the answer. The best stimulus would include a dramatic reduction in marginal tax rates on small businesses.
In a time when many of us are cutting back on unnecessary expenses, Congress needs to reconsider every last dollar in the proposed stimulus bill and chart a more responsible way to get our economy moving.
Israel Ortega is a Senior Media Services Associate at the Heritage Foundation and has more than half a decade working in Congress and Washington, D.C.
First Appeared in El Diario