February 24, 2009

February 24, 2009 | Commentary on

Nightmare on Stimulus Street

Why the big rush on the "stimulus" plan? President Barack Obama claims it's because his plan would "create jobs for Americans" and place the "economy on a firmer foundation." More likely, it's because it couldn't have survived public scrutiny and a more comprehensive congressional debate.

The Congressional Budget Office studied the Senate stimulus plan and concluded that the "legislation would reduce output slightly in the long run." Even with liberal economic assumptions cooked into the analysis, CBO further estimates that it "would tend to reduce the stock of productive capital," because of the massive new debt incurred by the federal government. The American people need to wake up from the Obama dream of a government-sponsored rescue of American capitalism.

Besides, better alternatives existed. House conservatives championed an alternative plan that would have lowered the bottom two tax brackets, patched the pesky Alternative Minimum Tax, promoted private health insurance and cut taxes for struggling businesses. "Instead of more slow-moving, wasteful government spending, we must employ the time tested method of pro-growth tax relief," Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) said. "We will only see arecovery when we implement policies that reduce the tax burden on American individuals and businesses, encouraging them to save, invest and stimulate real economic growth." But this conservative proposal was defeated by a 177-266 margin.

Congress also pushed forth a liberal health agenda as part of the stimulus. Most Americans are unaware of the many health provisions found in the plan, which essentially fast-tracks government control of health care through massive new spending initiatives. As noted by Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst Nina Owcharenko, America is rushing toward the financial tipping point in health care.

Most of the egregious health spending in the stimulus can be found in the federal government's bailout of state Medicaid programs -- a "temporary," across-the-board increase to states in the federal matching funds for the nation's largest health care welfare program ($87.2 billion over the next two years). Two other provisions give sweeping federal power over health care -- funding for comparative effectiveness and for health information technology.

Together these provisions could dramatically alter the current system of delivery care and allow government interference with the medical practice. Decisions about medical treatments and procedures are on the path to being decided by a government boards and bureaucrats with access to electronic medical records, rather than between a patient and their physician.

A Vote for D.C. in the House

Over the next few weeks, the Senate and House will be debating a bill to give the District of Columbia voting rights in the House of Representatives. The Senate will commence debate this week on a bill that grants a House vote to D.C.

According to Heritage's Nathanial Ward, this is a bad idea: "The nation's highest law [the Constitution] limits representation in Congress to states alone, and the District is not a state." Our Founding Fathers called for a district to act as a seat for the federal government and for Congress to exercises exclusive authority over the nation's capitol. Ward believes that a constitutional amendment would be the only way to legally grant D.C. a vote in the House.

If Congress wants to enact a constitutional law with regard to D.C., maybe Congress should force the mayor and city council to respect the gun rights of residents through legislation. The Constitution directly authorizes Congress to exercise authority over matters internal to the District. If the District wants a voting representative in the House, maybe it should respect the constitutional rights of its citizens.

The Supreme Court found the District of Columbia in violation of the Second Amendment in last July's District of Columbia v. Heller case. The city had put in place a citywide ban on the possession of firearms, and there were two bills in the last Congress to establish a framework for individuals to register guns in D.C. (authored by Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas).

This fight will be a true test of whether Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner can force votes that make the District of Columbia defend the natural right of all Americans to possess a firearm of their choice.

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

First Appeared in Human Events