Washington never changes, no matter who's in power. Give a gang of politicians a chance to spend our money, and they will spend it -- the more the better. An economic downturn is hog heaven; for now they have a justification to spend big time: "economic stimulus." Anything and everything can be proposed as long as it can be said to "inject money into the economy" and "create jobs."
Does $819 billion sound like too much? Au contraire. It may not be enough. Ask Paul Krugman and the other Keynesians. The danger, they say, lies in spending too little. Not to worry. The Senate will probably throw in more money. And the Obama administration says this is just the beginning. "While many of the projects are a down payment on long-term goals, including energy policy reform, health-care reform and the expansion of infrastructure investment, the goal has never been to accomplish every legislative goal in one fell swoop," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thinks that hundreds of millions of dollars for family-planning services will stimulate the economy. My colleague George Stephanopoulos of "This Week" was incredulous. But Pelosi was ready for him: "Well, the family planning services reduce cost. ... The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now. ... [C]ontraception will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government".
Fortunately, the White House saw that as a stretch and distanced itself from Pelosi. "The principles of what he [President Obama] thought should be in the package -- that wasn't part of that," said Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton.
That glitch aside, an agreement has emerged on how Congress should "stimulate the economy." The final bill will contain spending on states and localities, roads and bridges, unemployment benefits, "green" technologies, etc..
President Obama has vowed that no earmarks -- special appropriations to benefit particular congressmen -- will sully the final package. But in the Wonderland called Washington, things are never what they seem: "The result, as The Associated Press learned in interviews with more than a dozen lawmakers, lobbyists and state and local officials, is a shadowy lobbying effort that may make it difficult to discern how hundreds of billions in federal money will be parceled out".
What a surprise.