There is something piquant about a congressman summoning others up from self-interestedness, and it is mysterious whose interests, other than those of their shareholders, corporations are supposed to be controlled by. And although Waxman seems to concede that more stringent standards would injure the companies' interests, he supports those standards, as he supported giving billions of taxpayers' dollars to preserve the companies. He surely will support the next installment of auto subsidies, which, like the previous installment, will not be the last installment. In last year's second quarter, GM lost $118,000 a minute and the next plan for its salvation until the next crisis will require more government money to prevent bankruptcy, which would require more government money.
Talk about trillions of dollars has become so commonplace that billions seem minuscule -- even though a billion minutes ago Plutarch (46-120 A.D.) was alive -- and it is hardly worth mentioning mere millions, such as the $50 million for stimulus through the National Endowment for the Arts. But those millions elated Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., co-chairwoman of the Congressional Arts Caucus: "If we're trying to stimulate the economy and get money into the Treasury, nothing does that better than art." Nothing? Is Slaughter correct about what we're trying to do? Is the point of the government's stimulus spending to get more money into the government -- "into the Treasury"? She is not the first politician to desire prosperity for the people so that they could be more bountiful taxpayers.
"Never," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., when voting against the stimulus, "have so few spent so much so quickly to do so little." Three of his contentions are correct. The $787 billion price tag is probably at least two-thirds too low: Add the cost of borrowing to finance it, and allow for the certainty that many "temporary" programs will become permanent, and the price soars far above $2 trillion.
Cole's fourth contention, however, is wrong. The stimulus, which the Congressional Budget Office says will, over the next 10 years, reduce GDP by crowding out private investment, already is doing a lot by fostering cynicism in the service of opportunism.