NH Steward

Back to NHSteward.org

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Media Versus Anti-Stimulus Governors

The national mainstream media has a new villain: Republican governors who may refuse their states’ shares of the recently-passed stimulus package. “Why wouldn’t you take the money?” David Gregory asked LA Gov. Bobby Jindal incredulously on Meet the Press yesterday. Across the board, media talking heads suggest Jindal and others are only playing politics and are simply thinking about their own political futures as potential presidential candidates.

But it’s entirely plausible—indeed, probable—that these governors are considering rejecting portions of the money because they care about their states’ futures, not their own. Accepting and spending the stimulus money now increases the size of state programs that will be very difficult, and practically impossible, to eliminate or reduce in the future. This essentially burdens those states with an unfunded mandate of sorts; they get the money today, but the federal government isn’t always going to be there to pump a trillion dollars of taxpayer money into the system. To paraphrase President Ronald Reagan, the closest thing to eternal life here on earth is a government program. So who makes up the difference when the federal government stops priming the pump? You guessed it, state and local taxpayers.

As Robert J. Samuelson argues in his latest column, "’Temporary’ spending increases for specific programs, as opposed to block grants, will be harder to undo, worsening the long-term budget outlook [for the states].

These are important objections and the mainstream media does a disservice to the prudent and responsible governors who worry about the stimulus package’s impact on their respective states’ long term fiscal health.

Every Day Since Jesus

CNN doesn’t like this new ad, what do you think?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How Do We Know Stimulus Bill Will Create 16,000 New Hampshire Jobs?

How do we reconcile the fact that the Obama administration and New Hampshire Reps. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Paul Hodes (NH-02) have promised that the recently passed stimulus bill will create upwards of 16,000 state jobs with the countervailing fact that, according to stimuluswatch.org, there are zero projects for the Granite State in the package?

Stimuluswatch.org is careful to point out, “[t]hese projects are not part of the stimulus bill. They are candidates for funding by federal grant programs once the bill passes.” STEWARD sought clarity from top legislative staffers on Capitol Hill who explained that the stimuluswatch.org list appears to catalogue the so-called wish lists of “shovel-ready” projects submitted by the nation’s governors and mayors. Many of these requests would be comical if taxpayer money weren’t at stake. $20,000,000 for a “Downtown Quiet Zone” in San Diego estimated to create zero jobs?

If stimuluswatch.org is correct—that Gov. John Lynch and New Hampshire’s mayors have not submitted such a wish list—how should we react? On the one hand, good for them; we don’t need any federally funded “Downtown Quiet Zones.” (In this economy wouldn’t we rather have our downtowns bustling?) But on the other hand, how are we to hold New Hampshire’s federal, state and local officials accountable if they have provided no information as to how the money would be spent? And if they have enumerated no “shovel-ready” projects, how can they estimate New Hampshire will “create or save” 16,000 jobs?

The Obama administration promises to post “spending and performance data” on recovery.gov in due time and that they will soon establish “rigorous internal controls [and] oversight mechanisms.” We look forward to them. But until President Obama, Gov. John Lynch, Sens. Judd Gregg and Jeanne Shaheen, Reps. Shea-Porter and Hodes, and our local officials make it clear to We the People how the money will be doled out, these mechanisms will have nothing to measure performance against.

Perhaps the March 3rd public hearing of the House Municipal and County Affairs Committee will provide some additional and much needed detail.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Shovel Ready?

Let’s Hear It for the Little Guy!

This is probably NOT what people had in mind when they talked about stimulating the economy:

Billionaire Paul Allen is a Microsoft cofounder, the owner of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and the owner of the NBA's Portland Trailblazers.

And, thanks to the stimulus bill President Obama signed this week, he's also about to be as much as a billion dollars richer.

Santelli’s “Moral Hazard”

NBC’s Brian Williams called this the most e-mailed item on the blogosphere on Thursday:

The debate continued on the Today Show this morning:

There are four Facebook Groups dedicated to furthering Santelli's tea party idea.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Accountability Website Likely to Fall Short

Phil Elliot from the AP reported on Wednesday:

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama promised taxpayers they could track each of the billions and billions of dollars in spending Congress has approved to stimulate the nation's flailing economy and save its banks. It's a promise that's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to keep.

Obama, whose presidential campaign harnessed technology to identify supporters and track voters, already has rewritten the rules on how technology can be used to shape public opinion. But as the president and his top aides attempt to turn that savvy into governing, they are finding that existing technology and regulations are making it difficult for them to keep their word.

"We're actually going to set up something called Recovery.gov. This is going to be a special Web site we set up, that gives you a report on where the money is going in your community, how it's being spent, how many jobs it's being created so that all of you can be the eyes and ears," Obama told an audience last week in Indiana.
"And if you see that a project is not working the way it's supposed to, you'll be able to get on that Web site and say, 'You know, I thought this was supposed to be going to school construction, but I haven't noticed any changes being made.' And that will help us track how this money is being spent."

Except that it didn't work exactly as Obama suggested when the Web site went live Tuesday as Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus package into law.
While the site breaks down the massive bill into broad categories, and provides state-by-state estimates of jobs that will be created, it does not provide any details on spending by community.

White House aides say they will provide more information as soon as they can, but they cannot predict which specific projects — this bridge or that highway, for instance — will be included, because states make those decisions.
The problem facing the administration is that it's impossible to put on the Web site decisions that have not yet been made.

We applaud the Obama administration’s impulse toward transparency. And we are inclined to believe that this blunder was born out of ignorance, not malice. But the very nature of this law—it was a spending bill not an economic stimulus bill—puts the lie to the idea that they can suitably account for the money. To the best of our ability, we here at STEWARD will hold the administration and Congress accountable for the sometimes absurd pork programs that were stuffed into the parameters of this law.

Not Enough Staff to Hand Out the Checks!?

What does it say about the stimulus bill that it pays out so much in money (money we don’t have, by the way) that the Obama administration doesn’t have enough government employees to hand out the checks?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We’ll Be Watching

We applaud the White House for releasing projected job growth by congressional district [PDF]. Well, let’s qualify that—the White House lists jobs the stimulus package will “create or save” by congressional district. According to the Obama administration’s statement:

The estimates are derived from an analysis of the overall employment impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act conducted by Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist for the Vice President, and detailed estimates of the working age population, employment, and industrial composition by district.

Estimating the jobs this plan will create “or save” seems like a strange way to measure the success of this bill. Regardless, here’s how the Granite State will fair, allegedly:

First Congressional District -- 8,000
Second Congressional District -- 7,800

STEWARD of Prosperity is deeply skeptical that this plan will work. And we will be watching to hold the Obama administration accountable.

Talk About "Bad Debt"

This morning’s New York Times story on some Republican governors supporting the Obama administration’s stimulus plan—specifically, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut and Gov. Charlie Christ—is certainly written by reporter Jackie Calmes with a certain villain in mind: House Republicans who voted against the bill.

Well, we suppose that is one way to look at it; through the prism of who won the news day, who’s up, who’s down. But let’s take a step back and look closer at one of those states: California.

The Golden State has no budget. Its unemployment is at 9.3 percent. The governor today will layoff up to 20,000 state employees and suspect 275 public works projects already underway. Only a weak—or deliberately partisan—mind would fault the Republicans in Congress, and seven Democrats, who think the president’s bill is the wrong way to stimulate the economy.

A much more sophisticated analysis would delve into how California’s leaders have so mismanaged the state’s finances that it needs an emergency $42 billion to stay afloat. And they’re not alone. Forty states in the U.S. are unable to balance their budgets. What could the leaders of these states have been doing over the past few years to create such a toxic economic environment?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What Happened to Bipartisanship?

President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats said they wanted seventy votes in the Senate. They said they wanted a bipartisan bill. Not only does that appear not to be true, the media appears not to be holding them to this commitment.

CNN is running a series of packages this morning calling the GOP “the party of no,” echoing a Big Labor ad released yesterday.

We think this kind of partisan bickering is exactly the problem with this stimulus process.

Blogs Cover STEWARD (Updated)

Many thanks to bloggers giving love to STEWARD of Prosperity:

Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit

Shawn Macomber of the American Spectator

Ben Smith at the Politico

Jim Geraghty at National Review Online

Don Surber at The Daily Mail

Amanda Carpenter at Townhall.com

Laurie Byrd at Wizbang

How Will the “Blue Dogs” Vote? (Updated)

Brian Faughnan shines the light on the Blue Dog Democrats in the House over at Red State:

Do the Blue Dogs care about balanced budgets? Do they oppose wasteful spending? Are they the taxpayer’s best friend, the conscience of the Congress, and the moderates who craft bipartisan solutions? Today is the day to prove it. If they help Congressional leaders pass this massive spending bill with no scrutiny, then they don’t really serve any purpose. And they’ll be reminded of it over and over again before the next election.

All deficit hawks—Democrat or Republican—need to oppose this compromise bill on the grounds that it punishes our children and grandchildren with too much debt.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty reports that Rep. Allen Boyd already has a primary challenger.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Health Care Controversy in Senate Stimulus Package

Fox News Channel has offered extensive coverage all Tuesday morning of what they call new health care rules that have been inserted into the stimulus bill without debate:

High Marks for Performance, Not Substance

MSNBC’s Morning Joe crew gave President Obama high marks for his press conference on Monday night. For his performance. Likewise, Bob Herbert has a much buzzed about column in this morning’s New York Times in which he ladles praise on President Obama’s tactical approach to pushing the stimulus package. Herbert compares the president to “a championship chess player, always several moves ahead of friend and foe alike.”

Reasonable people can agree that President Obama communicated his message effectively and that he is a master politician. But where is the praise for the substance of the stimulus bill? Well, there is very little of it out there. One reason might be that the compromise measure as passed by the Senate has only been available to the public since 11:00 PM last Saturday night.

Another reason might be that the plan simply isn’t all that good for the economy and very few people are confident that it will work.

Who Wants to “Do Nothing?”

Reading Twitter last night I observed a common objection to President Obama’s remarks: No one is suggesting we “do nothing” to fix the economy.

One of my favorites comes from Weekly Standard blogger Mary Katharine Ham: “Seriously, the ‘people who want to do nothing’ straw man is OVERDONE, Obama.”

Overdone, Indeed.

Recklessness Rewarded

Joe Scarborough on MSNBC on Monday morning:

One of the biggest drawbacks to the stimulus bill, as currently constructed, is that it rewards bad behavior on the part of governors and state legislatures that refused to control their spending when times were good. And now taxpayers from responsible states have to bail them out.