Stimulus Bill Sells Out Taxpayers

Rep. Darrell Issa
Politico
1/28/09

The so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act amounts to nothing more than an $825 billion earmark designed to expand government on the backs of the American taxpayers using money we do not have. There is little guarantee of any short-term gain, but there is no question of the irreparable harm we can expect by saddling our children and grandchildren with trillions of dollars of additional debt.

According to a report recently released by the Congressional Budget Office, only 7 percent of the $355 billion in discretionary spending included in the bill would be injected into the economy by the end of fiscal year 2009. More than $200 billion of “stimulus” funds will be spent between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2019 — long after the recession is projected to be over.

Time and again, we are hearing how urgently these stimulus funds are needed. The American people have been cautioned that without this proposal, the recession we are currently experiencing will only deepen. You would think that given the severity of this economic crisis, the Democrats in Congress who have crafted this plan would ensure that every dollar spent will help create jobs and jump-start our economy. Yet a closer look at the bill reveals that 93 percent of the bill’s discretionary spending will be spent in years to come — or, as the Washington Post put it, “too late to lift the nation out of recession.”

Instead of injecting new life into the economy, we’re seeing a massive expansion of government. The bill by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey contains $137 billion for the creation of 32 new programs — that’s 38 percent of all spending in the current bill. Seventeen of these new programs have never been authorized by the Congress. This is on top of the $76 billion being spent to expand 60 existing government programs — 19 of which have been described as “ineffective” or “results not demonstrated” by the Office of Management and Budget. It’s just another example of good money after bad.

Furthermore, while billed as a transportation, infrastructure and energy investment, a closer look at the Pelosi-Obey stimulus bill shows that only 3 percent of the $825 billion will go toward road and highway construction. In fact, of the $30 billion set aside in highway spending, less than $4 billion would occur over the next two years. Of the $18.5 billion proposed for renewable energy, less than $3 billion would be spent by 2011. Of $14 billion for school construction, less than $7 billion would be spent in the first two years.

Democrats should be honest with the American people about how they intend to spend taxpayer dollars. By the end of 2010, only 12 percent of the funds set aside for highway construction will be spent. What kind of job creation can we expect when the majority of funds for public infrastructure aren’t spent for another two years? The only road being paved with this bill is the road to financial ruin.

In reality, the proposed Pelosi-Obey $825 billion economic stimulus is nothing more than an $825 billion earmark that will do little but expand the federal government at the expense of America’s long-term economic health. In 1993, the unemployment rate in America was virtually the same as the rate today — around 7 percent — yet the stimulus package proposed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 included only $16 billion in new spending. The total cost of this piece of legislation is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government, or enough to give every man, woman and child in America $2,700.

Lawmakers are supposed to be stewards of taxpayer dollars, yet all too often their money is spent without any transparency or accountability. Pelosi-Obey is the wrong kind of stimulus — it will grow the government, stick the taxpayers with the bill and leave the American people wondering what they got in return.

Rep. Darrell Issa represents the 49th District of California and is the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.