President Obama says "some powerful special interests" have been talking about him "like a dog," and it's true, especially that incredibly, awesomely powerful interest known as the American public, but there is a way out.
He can quit coming up with policy ideas like an immediate $50 billion, anti-recession expenditure to be part of the creation of a major new federal apparatus known as an infrastructure bank.
It's an absurdity on all kinds of grounds, not the least of which is that we've heard infrastructure promises before. The original, $862 billion stimulus was supposed to be more than anything a shovel-ready plan to spiff up our highways, bridges, railways, runways and the like. But a funny thing happened to it on the way to economy-enhancing glory. It was waylaid by ineptitude and political corruption. Some unproductive pork here and another earmark over there, and pretty soon you had grandiose waste while the jobless suffered.
Let's be clear, though, that the stimulus package was something worse than a missed opportunity. It was first off based on the proposition that if you yank money out of the hands of those who ordinarily make the economy go and then turn it over to central planners, miracles will occur. With the wisdom that comes only by being miles away from the action and having extremely limited knowledge, the philosopher kings in Washington would spend this money with far superior results than you could get from entrepreneurs on the spot, and, voila, there would be dancing in the streets.
Things don't work that way. Recessions usually fix themselves without a lot of hocus pocus from the government except for the magic of retreat, which is to say, spending less. Germany tried austerity. Austerity worked. We tried the opposite, and watch out for those Washington blusterers whose calculations would have you stand up and applaud. They did not get to their estimates of millions of jobs saved mostly through empirically based head counts, but by using the same formula that was used to justify the experiment in the first place. It's like proving a theory by repeating what it says.
.The stimulus most likely worsened the recession, helping to make these last few months less the "recovery summer" that Obama pledged than a summer of charade and excuses. This expenditure contributed mightily to a debt that could ultimately wreck us and is currently part of what's keeping businesses from expanding. They're worried about inflation, the burden of thousands of new regulations and a health-care remake likely to impose myriad new costs and complications into their lives. Not least of all they are worried about higher taxes.
Obama is talking now about lowering investment taxes for businesses, a potentially good thing, but why does he also want to give us still more debt through increased spending? You'd think that if he is serious about the need for billions more on transportation infrastructure, he would work with Congress to redirect some of the stimulus billions still unspent, and you would think, too, that he would put this bank on hold until he has a definite, concrete plan to cut spending significantly elsewhere.
If he and his Democratic Congress could perform that feat, he could calm the concerns of small business owners about reinstituting rates at top levels in existence prior to the Bush tax cuts. Investment tax reductions will be unlikely to make up for that, and if fiscal responsibility demands more revenue, and if the Democrats really believe their laughable lie that the Bush cuts did little to help the middle class, well, reinstitute all those taxes prior to November.
The result would be yet more widespread outrage, and not just because of fat cat power blocs. That claim of our overly clever, highly partisan, blame-Bush-for-everything president is aimed at making it seem there are no disinterested critiques of his policies and no legitimate populist anger. Guess again.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com.