Friday, January 30, 2009

Politicans Being Politicians

This piece by Daniel Politi in yesterday's Slate, recapping coverage of the political maneuverings around the stimulus bill, leaves me deeply chagrined. I'm reminded of why we hate politicians. Forget the partisanship, I'm just talking about what's being done to this stimulus bill by both parties. These guys couldn't rise to an occasion with saturn rockets strapped to their backs. And I'm not sure about the actual bill, itself, either.

In a way, it's refreshing to loathe politicians for simply being politicians. After years of loathing them for being partisan hacks, it's something of a relief to see them acting like the regular old incorrigible, short-sighted, greedy, self-serving dweebs they've always been under whatever more horrific garments they'd donned.

They're also reminding me why we, as a society, have grown more cautious about ambitiously solving problems via public money. It's like a sausage factory where tax dollars go in, but mostly putrid links emerge. The inefficiencies, the nonsense, the waste, the pork...tsk. Can anything positive be achieved by these guys above and beyond the cynicism and the greed, and the dark roiling clouds of unintended consequences? Just imagine the further degradations as the money actually goes out; the sleazy contractors, the rigged bids, the pay-offs. Ugh.

I suppose I sound like the Republicans, but they only pay lip service to their aversion of big government (all recent Republican administrations have massively increased government's size). One relevant quote from the article:
"Implementing some changes requested by Republicans has already pushed the total cost of the bill in the Senate to almost $900 billion. And that's bound only to increase."
Of course, the same fate befell the Bush stimulus package, which got all porked up. This is simply how the process works. But I'm left unsure that the pipe dream of governmental non-partisanship is what's most called for, after least when it comes to spending public moneys. The problem isn't a paralyzed inability to act. The problem's how politicians behave when they do act! If only we weren't led by politicians! 

Alas, there may be scant alternative. Hoover-esque laissez faire didn't work very well in the last depression, or in Japan's "lost decade" (the aftermath of similarly burst bubbles). But as we go about this, our government doesn't look any more sane, enlightened or "modern" than governments throughout history. Maybe things aren't getting better after all

I'm no economist, but I'm starting to wonder whether the Republicans are right. Just hand the money to the people and to businesses in the form of massive tax relief, and let them spend the economy back into movement. Some wisely-applied direct Keynsian stimulus with public money would likely work better, but wisdom seems in very short supply.

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