The stimulus screw up

David Brooks:

...

... they’ve created a sprawling, undisciplined smorgasbord, which has spun off a series of unintended consequences. First, by trying to do everything all it once, the bill does nothing well. The money spent on long-term domestic programs means there may not be enough to jolt the economy now (about $290 billion in spending is pushed off into 2011 and later). The money spent on stimulus, meanwhile, means there’s not enough to truly reform domestic programs like health technology, schools and infrastructure. The measure mostly pumps more money into old arrangements.

Second, by pumping so much money through government programs, the bill unleashes a tidal wave on state governments. A governor with a few-hundred-million-dollar shortfall will suddenly have to administer an additional $4 billion or $5 billion. That money will be corrosive both when washing in, and when it disappears in a few years time.

Third, the muddle assures ideological confrontation. A stimulus package was always going to be controversial, because economists differ widely about whether or how a stimulus can work. But this bill also permanently alters the role of the federal government, thus guaranteeing a polarizing brawl at the very start of the Obama presidency.

Fourth, Summers’s warnings about deficits have been put aside. There is no fiscal exit strategy. Instead, permanent spending commitments are entailed with no permanent funding stream to pay for them.

Fifth, new government expenditures on complex matters are being designed on a hasty, reckless timetable....

...
What they have is a Democrat Christmas tree without the benefit. They have thrown in all the things they wanted to spend money on the last 15 years, that Republicans wisely blocked. They have ignored the two things that most stimulate the economy, tax cuts for small business and military spending. Those two things are magic when it comes to long term growth and the Democrat's alternative is a economic sink hole.

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