Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stimulus plan no lawmaker has fully read passes

For a president who promised change, yesterday's passage of a massive economic stimulus plan in spending and number of pages was more of the same betrayal that has left the people's faith in Washington so low.

No lawmaker had read all of the bill they had passed. So every Republican in the House and seven Democrats voted against it, lest they pass something that they did no know all it would do.

The bill passed in the Senate and got three Republican votes. But the measure is solely a Democratic one, pushed by a president who has shown incompetency of an extraordinary degree in only his first month in office.

The legislation will not have an immediate impact in creating jobs. In fact, it allows for infrastructure improvements with current crews to keep them working.

The stimulus package is more of the same wasteful spending from Washington, except for backing up extended unemployment benefits and health care for laid off workers. But those needs are only a fraction of the nearly $800 billion plan.

Passage of a bill no lawmaker fully read is a betrayal of the American people and holds more threat than help.

1 comment:


Have you ever stained a dried-out, scorched-in-the-sun-for-years wooden deck? The first application is absorbed so quickly it almost doesn't look as though it's been stained at all. The wood literally drinks up the stain as fast as you apply it. In order for this exercise to be beneficial at all, it usually requires two or three applications.

The dried out deck is the U.S. economy and the stain is over $900 billion that will be absorbed as quickly as it is distributed. And then each month and quarter we will wait and watch for signs. Signs that the economy has stopped contracting. Signs that jobless claims are retreating. We have to stop this runaway train from going south before it can begin to travel north again. And that takes time - and patience.

Last Saturday, in an effort to come to a resolution about applying stain to this economy, Congress was in session. And at least one Senator made the point that this would not be a quick fix. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) appealed to her colleagues for patience - a much needed virtue during this current American Crisis. The last major American Crisis lasted almost 16 years - from October 29, 1929 to August 14, 1945. No one can predict the length and depth of this Crisis, but it won't be quick and recovery will most likely be measured in years for a number of reasons:

A mature U.S. economy. The economy is mature and has been growing at ever-decreasing rates since the 1960s. The U.S. economy is mostly made up of mature corporations, which translates into mature industries, and roll up into mature sectors. Sure there are less-mature growth segments, but they are either not big enough yet (biotech) or are not growing fast enough, or strong enough to greatly impact a $14.3 trillion economy. This makes recovery much harder.
A major consumer mindshift. Consumers have slammed on the spending brakes. Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCEs) make up about 70 percent of U.S. GDP. The rate of PCE growth has been in decline since the 1960s (1960s-4.44%, 1970s- 3.51%, 1980s-3.30%, 1990s-3.25%, 2000s-2.82%) and that decline has only accelerated during the 2000s. Over the last five years, the rate of PCE growth has gone from 3.6% in 2003 to 0.3% in 2008 - with the last two quarters of 2008 registering negative growth rates. And early signs for 2009 do not look good. The U.S. auto industry - coming off its worst year ever - sold almost 40% fewer cars in January 2009 that it did in January 2008. The bottom line: consumers have reined in spending - probably the right thing for them to do personally, but crippling to the economy.
As the largest generation in history ages, it leaves its days of conspicuous consumption behind it. As Boomers retire and/or die, an enormous PCE engine dies with them, replaced by younger generations that get by on less and are increasingly choosing a life built on quality, not quantity. They watched their Boomer parents kill themselves as productivity machines in exchange for more money and a higher standard of living. Just as Boomers did not want to live the lives their parents did, Gen Xers and Millennials do not want to live the lives their Boomer parents did.
So to echo the call of Arkansas Senator Lincoln, we all must be patient. But combined with patience we need to concurrently redefine the measurement of success on so many levels. Our economy must not be measured against historical levels going forward or we will be terribly disappointed for a very long time. It's time to adjust expectations and build a better life on less - a lesson that companies such as General Motors have remarkably yet to learn.

The U.S. economy is no longer a heel-clicking youngster. It's our aging uncle who sometimes falls asleep on the couch when he comes to visit. He may not be capable of running the New York Marathon anymore, but we don't love him any less and we make the most of the time we have left with him.

We will get through this economic winter and on to a glorious spring of expansion. But don't look for the economic equivilent of groundhog Punxsutawney Phil to accurately forecast an early spring. Winter is here and we'd better get used to it.