This week on Capitol Hill, we expect to see at least two specious ideas up for consideration -- a bad stimulus package and an ill-advised automaker bailout.
A cascade of bad headlines over the past three months influenced many voters to blame Republicans for an economic slowdown, including a high-profile meltdown on Wall Street. Even with a massive federal intervention into the U.S. economy, a recession is looming and unpleasant economic news continues. Despite fresh evidence that big-government solutions have done nothing to help the economy this fall, many politicians are embracing a $50 billion to $100 billion package.
The Democratic leadership in Congress and President-elect Barack Obama have an ambitious stimulus list, including monies for pet transportation projects, an extension of unemployment insurance, food stamps and a costly auto industry bailout (more on that below). The Bush administration has resisted more wasteful spending without a deal on one or all of the pending free-trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.
This is merely the first of many liberal stimulus packages. President-elect Obama has signaled that a stimulus package will be his administration's top priority in January, no matter what Congress does this week. Resisting these plans should be a top priority for conservatives, who know that government spending reduces productivity and economic growth.
Unfortunately, our newly elected officials plan to follow the same failed spending strategies of the past, rather than enact reforms that can improve our nation's economy. Dramatically cut the size of the federal government and the economy will thrive.
General Motors, the United States' largest automaker, whose stock is down more than 90 percent this year, says they will likely run out of cash before the year's end. GM, Ford and Chrysler are coming to Congress with hands outstretched for billions in corporate welfare. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is excited to give $25 billion more of your tax dollars, with the support of Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to bail out the automakers. This $25 billion is addition to the $25 billion loaned to the auto industry in September to develop fuel-efficient cars.
James Gattuso of The Heritage Foundation says the Big Three automaker bailout would set "a disturbing precedent, encouraging other private companies to clamor for government sponsorships." Americans will hear the same tired arguments: "If one fails, they'll all fail," or "They're just too big to fail." Conservatives are hoping that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson won't support the automakers' requests to be included in the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), because the TARP is supposed to be limited to financial institutions, and this multi-billion dollar bailout is too big a price to pay for congressional approval of free-trade agreements.
One reason for the automakers' bailout is that politicians have refused to make tough decisions to cut the cost that unions impose on the auto industry in Michigan. Car manufacturers in the south, from Nissan in Tennessee to Mercedes plants in Alabama, are doing well. According to the Detroit Free Press, The United Auto Workers are requesting yet another $25 billion to pay for the heath care costs of Michigan autoworkers. Yet endless bailouts only encourage less-profitable companies to come to Washington looking for handouts.
Lands Bill (Could Restrict New Oil and Gas Leasing)
Reid has called senators back for an emergency session to vote on a $4 billion omnibus lands package that would designate as much as three million acres as federal lands. It would, in effect, restrict new oil and gas leasing, as well as slow logging and mining. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has been blocking these bills, but Reid is expected to march forward to buy more private land for the most nonproductive sector of our economy -- the federal government.
DeMint Helps Clean Up the GOP in the Senate
Cheers to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) for forcing votes this week to require secret ballots for Republican Senate leadership elections, requiring members' support before bills are passed by unanimous consent. This will protect the rights of individual members to offer amendments on the Senate floor and implement committee reforms to promote a merit system of advancement to committee chairmanships. This will make DeMint unpopular with the old Senate bulls but popular with grassroots conservatives who want members to shake things up.
Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation
First Appeared in Human Events