Wednesday, January 28, 2009

True Confessions: A Socialist Complains About "Economic Stimulus 2009"

You ever been really broke, flat-out busted and then had somebody suddenly hand you 700 million dollars? The New Mexico Legislature was seemingly prepared to go on a Ramen and Shasta diet when the Feds suddenly showed up with some caviar and Dom Perignon in the guise of "Economic Stimulus 2009: Works Progress Administration II".
"All of this will have a very short fuse," a Senate staffer told the Journal on Tuesday. "It's use it or lose it."
--Michael Coleman, Albuquerque Journal, 1.28.09
Now you don't have to be a "fiscal conservative" to see potential pitfalls in handing state legislatures tons of unfettered cash. And the "fettering" here is noted in the Coleman story and elsewhere in terms like "penciled in" like "clean water projects are penciled in for another $28 million" and, as new U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich says, "this entire package is designed to create jobs and to do it as quickly as possible."

Now I'm an unabashed Liberal. Big L, big I, get the picture. F.D. Roosevelt is one of my favorite Presidents...Hell he's one of my favorite historical persons all time. Right up there with Leon Trotsky, Eugene V. Debs and Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown. And I think Roosevelt's attempts to resurrect the American economy in the wake of what became known as the Great Depression were exactly the kind of big-picture, intra-United States projects/thinking the country has desperately needed again for decades.

But I gotta admit all this "Economic Stimulus II" has a bit of the feel generated last year when Treasure Department head honcho Henry Paulson and his equally inept colleagues went around telling Congress, John Q. Public and whoever else would listen that if we didn't give the financial markets $350 billion in 72 hours the sky would fall, the nation would crumble and dogs and cats would start living together in chaos. Or last year when ex-President W led the effort to save the American economy by just giving every tax payer $600 to go buy an HDTV. That certainly seemed to work.

The problem I have with all this is the lack of (and here's a good Socialist, Trotsky, festooned with negative connotation term for ya) planning. Many in this country are obsessed with the idea that "Socialism" is evil. In reaction, instead of carefully planning the government allocation of dollars to help the "Hell No We're Not Socialists" economy, we're just dumping the money into the financial markets, state governments etc., calling it a "stimulus" and pretending to let the "Invisible Hand" pick it back up from there.

So instead of a careful, thoughtful approach that will lead to Rooseveltian things like a 21st Century version of the Hoover Dam (and yes, I know that putting dams along the Colorado was a bad idea in the long run), "Works Progress Administration II" seems destined to be a smash-and-grab for quick money and lots of it, creating the perfect scenario for hyper-short term thinking, "shovel-ready" (i.e., certainly not the Hoover Dam) projects, and a military-industrial complex level of lobbyist's meddling/pilfering.

So this, big L, Liberal is quaking in his Eugene V. Debs boots reading stories about "Economic Stimulus 2009". As most of you know, even FDR himself was perhaps overly concerned with deficit spending in a recession/depression. The idea of some weird Free Market Anti-Socialism Big-ASS Government (FMASBAG), where the government attempts to "save" the economy by acting like an ATM plopped down in the middle of the NM Roundhouse scares me just a little, tiny bit. Okay, more than a tiny bit.

I pooper. Hasn't the military-industrial complex been given the ATM treatment for years? Why shouldn't the Department of Education, etc. get the same treatment DoD? Why shouldn't mistreated states like New Mexico and horribly mistreated constituents like the children of New Mexico?

Um...well well let's just watch. Check back with me after the ATM feeding frenzy ends, and we'll compare notes. Myself, I'm predicting a Hoover Dam-sized case of financial ugly here.


Al said...

Obama Stimulus Plan = Redistribtion of Wealth, which is, in essence, SPREADING the WEALTH AROUND.

Anonymous said...

Here's a difference from the New Deal and WPA. When FDR funded "shovel ready" projects it was literal. Look at those old B&W films and you will see 100's of men with shovels. People needed jobs and that's what they got, a shovel and a paycheck.

Fast forward 75 years. Infrastructue jobs are equipment, not labor, intensive and the equipment makers such as CAT are downsizing. Of course, we could always outsource those stimulus funds to Japan and China for the machinery and steel.

Good luck driving over that bridge built by your former financial advisor.

steve said...

Relief, Recovery and Reform were the tenets of the New Deal and we seem to be hearing very little about the last. I agree that there seems so little thought going into this stuff that it sounds about as likely to succeed as last year's stimuli You know, the Fall of Rome was accompanied by the dole to everyone and lots of fun stuff at the Coliseum and Circus Maximus to keep people's minds off the obvious. Well, we've got the dole and maybe the next thing will be some big distraction to take place at a huge venue, that we can all watch on TV. We could call it the Super Bowl or some other appropriate name. Just kidding (I hope).