Archive for Stimulus

Lemons for Lunkheads

Like so many Democrat schemes, it seemed like a bad idea at the time:

The government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program – pitched as a plan to jump-start U.S. auto sales and clean up the environment by getting gas-guzzling vehicles off the road — may have been a clunker itself, according to a new economic study.

Researchers at Texas A&M, in a recently released report, measured the impact of Cash for Clunkers on sales and found the program actually decreased industry revenue by $3 billion over a nine-to-11-month period.

“Strikingly, we find that Cash for Clunkers actually reduced overall spending on new vehicles,” the researchers reported, noting households “tended to purchase less expensive and smaller vehicles such as the Toyota Corolla, which was the most popular new vehicle purchased under the program.”

They found buyers who participated “spent an average of $4,600 less on a new vehicle than they otherwise would have.”

During the two months of the program, the frequency of purchasing a new vehicle was around 50 percent higher for those who qualified for the program compared with those who did not. But after the program ended, the researchers found, car-buying habits returned to normal.

It should be known as Twenties for Toyota from now on, though I have to admit that the title of the actual study, Cash for Corollas, is better than mine.

I glanced through the report, and I found this intriguing footnote:

We focus only on identifying the stimulus impact for the U.S. auto industry. Though we believe that this policy likely had important consequences for the broader U.S. economy, we do not attempt to quantify the impact of the program on overall economic growth.

Government intervention always drags down economic performance, even when (especially when) it is intended as a “stimulus”. If only liberals would get that through their thick skulls.

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Obama Unhumbled, Bridges Crumbled

Aggie wrote a post two days ago about the curious coincidence of two bridges “crumbling” in recent days. We’ve had a discussion going in the comments that I want to bring forward.

Congress passed Obama’s vaunted stimulus package not only to keep unemployment below 8%—oops—but to fix “crumbling” roads and bridges. Big oops.

As we’ve made clear since the day the nearly-trillion-dollar money-laundering scheme was enacted, the government’s intervention has had many unintended consequences. Or not so unintended.

It was a money-laundering scheme because many of the dollars went to save public sector (union) jobs in profligate states with budget deficits. A percentage of those dollars returned to Democrats in the form of union contributions paid for by union dues. Everyone was happy. Everyone who was a unionized teacher or a Democrat politician, that is. Everyone else, not so much.

Aggie pointed out that some projects already scheduled in state budgets were postponed in anticipation of federal stimulus money—most of which went to paving roads instead. Many repair workers, therefore, were laid off while those few “shovel-ready” jobs in the pipeline were stopped up.

So what happened to those “crumbling” bridges? If Obama’s “stimulus” went straight into union and Democrat pockets, what’s held them up, besides divine providence?

Let me be clear (as Obama would say): I charge that the president’s cynical manipulation of federal tax dollars (yours and mine) has left our nation’s infrastructure dangerously vulnerable. Money appropriated four years ago never touched its intended projects. How is he not directly responsible? That no one died in either bridge “mishap” is a miracle, not of his making. Obama’s still nattering on about more money for our “crumbling” bridges—and he’s got a point, but only because he’s bled the budgeted money off for partisan purposes. At some point, politics as usual crosses the line into a high crime or misdemeanor.

Yet another example that Democrat policies are all fun and games until someone puts an eye out.

Or a bridge collapses.

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If a Bridge Collapses in Washington…

Does the media make a sound? Rhetorical question—not in this administration.

Rush Limbaugh on the other hand…

RUSH: We had a bridge collapse, which kind of surprised me because, you know, we spent almost a trillion dollars to repair the bridges in America, and I remember the president talking about it.

Let’s go back. November 22nd, 2008. This is after the election. This is his weekly YouTube address. He wasn’t president yet, but he was president-elect. And he’s talking about his stimulus plan. This is leading up to the stimulus, which he would put in place a few months later.

OBAMA: There will be a two-year nationwide effort to jump-start job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy. We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges.

RUSH: How’s that working out?

OBAMA: Because of this investment, nearly 400,000 men and women will go to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, repairing our faulty dams and levees, bringing critical broadband connections to businesses and homes in nearly every community in America, upgrading mass transit, building high-speed rail lines that will improve travel and commerce throughout our nation.

Wait, so where’d nearly a trillion dollars go? Well, boys and girls, once upon a time:

All of that money went to unions. All of that money went to teachers and other public employee unions during the recession to make sure they were not laid off. Eighty percent of the stimulus went to Democrat voters. Eighty percent of the stimulus went to Democrat donors. Eighty percent of the stimulus went to Democrat supporters.

None of it went to rebuild bridges and none of it went to rebuild roads and none of it went to rebuild schools. But back then it was exciting and everybody was filled with anticipation, because over 50% of the country bought into this. They believed it. They thought this was what’s gonna happen. They thought this was good. They thought this was the proper way to spend money. Especially to bring us out of economic doldrums. We’ve now know that the bulk of that money went to make sure unionized Democrats didn’t lose their jobs because unionized Democrats is a money laundering scheme. Teachers, other public employee unions pay dues.

Now, Obama just can’t go to the Treasury and write himself a $900 billion check for himself, the Democrat Party, for their campaign coffers. So what did they do? They wrote a check for $900 billion and told you they’re gonna rebuild roads and bridges and schools and levees and broadband connections and high-speed rail lines, and all they did was send it to states who then used it to keep their public employees working so that they continued to pay dues. And a percentage of that $900 billion check that Obama wrote came back to him and the Democrat Party in the form of campaign contributions. A fantastic, and never before described this way, money-laundering scheme.

Questions…? Yes, Sally…? Did any bridges get fixed?

Well…

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2009, 10:46 AM

Tens of thousands of unsafe or decaying bridges carrying 100 million drivers a day must wait for repairs because states are spending stimulus money on spans that are already in good shape or on easier projects like repaving roads, an Associated Press analysis shows.

President Barack Obama urged Congress last winter to pass his $787 billion stimulus package so some of the economic recovery money could be used to rebuild what he called America’s “crumbling bridges.” Lawmakers said it was a historic chance to chip away at the $65 billion backlog of deficient structures, often neglected until a catastrophe like the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed two years ago this Saturday.

States, however, have other plans. Of the 2,476 bridges scheduled to receive stimulus money so far, nearly half have passed inspections with high marks, according to federal data. Those 1,123 sound bridges received such high inspection ratings that they normally would not qualify for federal bridge money, yet they will share in more than $1.2 billion in stimulus money.

Repaving or widening roads requires less planning and can be done quickly, which is why such projects account for 70% of the $17 billion in transportation stimulus money approved so far. Bridge projects represent 12%.

The spending decisions by states are okay with the Obama administration.

Of course it was okay with them, what did they care? They got their cut.

File it with the myriad other examples of the Obama regime turning the government into a RICO outfit. Extortion, money laundering, union corruption, intimidation—Barack Obama, meet Al Capone. Two corrupt Chicago gang leaders brought down by tax abuses.

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Another Stimulus Loser

How much did this one cost us?

A123 Systems Inc. (AONE), a maker of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, filed for bankruptcy after failing to make a debt payment that was due yesterday.
The company listed assets of $459.8 million and debt of $376 million as of Aug. 31 in Chapter 11 documents filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. Chapter 11 is the section of the Bankruptcy Code used by companies to reorganize.

President Barack Obama called A123 Chief Executive Officer David Vieau and then-Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm during a September 2010 event celebrating the opening of the plant in Livonia, Michigan, that the company received the U.S. grant to help build.
“This is about the birth of an entire new industry in America — an industry that’s going to be central to the next generation of cars,” Obama said in the phone call, according to a transcript provided by the White House. “When folks lift up their hoods on the cars of the future, I want them to see engines and batteries that are stamped: Made in America.”

Romney had it right: Obama doesn’t pick winners and losers; he picks losers.

- Aggie

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Vote Yes, or the Old Man Gets It

Harry Reid’s not-so-subtle urging:

Michael Grunwald’s “The New New Deal” details the $787 billion stimulus passed in the early days of President Barack Obama’s presidency, and offers the back story of Senate arm-twisting needed to secure the votes.

Among the revelations in Grunwald’s book is an anecdote recalling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to push three veteran Republicans to vote for the bill — by guilt-tripping them over former Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s brain cancer.

Without vote commitments from the Republicans he had hoped to push his direction, Reid brought Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Thad Chochran of Mississippi and Mike Enzi of Wyoming to his office to appeal for their votes.

When his initial plea did not work, Reid reportedly told the three Republicans that he needed their votes so that he would not need to bring Kennedy — at the time battling brain cancer — back to work to end a filibuster.

“He said if you can’t vote with us, we’re going to have to bring Kennedy to the floor, and it really could kill him,” Grassely said. “We looked at each other like: Huh?”

I can see Reid’s position. Kennedy was going to die soon anyway (he did), and it’s not as if the Kennedys are strangers to premature deaths (suffering them and causing them), so what would be the big deal?

Still, a bit gruesome, don’t you think?

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Would You Trust Your Appendix to These People?

Alternate title: Marooned on the Isle of Langerhans.

The Agriculture Department spent $2 million on an internship program in which only one intern was hired, according to a new inspector general report.

The finding was part of a larger USDA inspector general audit that focused on the agency’s multi-million dollar effort to improve information technology security.

The 32-page audit found the agency’s information systems “are still at risk” because the improvement projects were poorly managed “even after expending $63.4 million of funding increases received” in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

The audit also focused on the office of the agency’s chief information officer and the $2 million it funded for the internship program. While the program was part of the security-enhancement program, it resulted in the hiring of only one full-time intern, the audit stated.

Don’t talk to me about fat cats and millionaires. Government earns the most obscene money of all.

And this is the rule, not the exception. if you remember:

Just how big is the stimulus package? Well for one, it has doubled the size of the House of Representatives, according to recovery.gov, which says that funds were distributed to 440 congressional districts that do not exist.

According to data retrieved from recovery.gov, nearly $6.4 billion was used to “create or save” just under 30,000 jobs in these phantom congressional districts–almost $225,000 per job. The web site operates on an $84 million budget and is tasked with monitoring the distribution of the $787 billion stimulus package passed by Congress–which, for the record, counts 435 members–in early 2009.

The site’s monitors, however, are not too savvy about America’s political or geographic landscape. More than $2 million was given to the 99th District of North Dakota, a state which has only one congressional district. In order to qualify for 99 districts, North Dakota would have to have a population of about 60 million people, almost 24 million more people than California.

A reporter from the Montana Policy Institue confronted the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which oversees the site, about these non-existent congressional districts on Monday afternoon. Ed Pound, Director of Communications for the board, said that the faulty information came from recipients of stimulus funds.

“People make errors, and we’ve found people are making errors in these reports,” Pound said…

Recipients file their reports on a password-protected site. That information is then relayed to officials who oversee the recovery.gov website to post, Pound said. Unless an egregious error is noted, Pound said they post the information exactly as it is received.

“Our job is data integrity, not data quality,” he said.

This is like Mafia accounting. And when your bank account is busted out, they’re going to bust out your health care.

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The Negative Trillion Dollar Man

Maybe this is a little too complex for your Saturday morning wooly heads, but just get this—Obama’s a loser—and you’ll be all right:

You’ve seen this graph, or one much like it, often. What the stimulus was supposed to deliver, it didn’t. In fact, unemployment was worse with stimulus than they predicted it would be without it. Coincidence? I think not.

In any case, now they’re trying to argue that they were right all along:

Nice try:

[W]e should conclude from that accurate CEA forecast that the $800 billion stimulus really did perform pretty much as expected, right? The White House predicted 8.2% and that is exactly what we got. Score one for Keynes — and the idea the stimulus should have been larger.

But here’s your trouble: In that report, the Council of Economic Advisers also predicted that the U.S. economy would grow by 4.3% in both 2011 and 2012. Instead, the economy grew by 1.7% in 2011 and might not do much better this year — if not worse. (First quarter GDP expanded at 1.9%, and many economists see the second quarter also sub-2%.) As a result, we have a $13.3 trillion economy instead of the $14.3 trillion economy Team Obama predicted (looking at just the underperformance in 2011 and 2012).

And here’s the puzzle: How can GDP growth be less than half of what Team Obama predicted in 2010 for 2011 and 2012, while the unemployment rate is exactly what Team Obama predicted? Less growth should have produced at least a somewhat higher unemployment rate, right?

[Channeling Tony Soprano:] Where the [bleep] is my trillion dollars, you [bleeper]! You owe me a trillion dollars, and I want it by Tuesday!

But you all know what happened, right? Say it with me:

The answer is almost certainly that White House economists didn’t expect a shockingly sharp drop in the labor force participation rate since they didn’t expect GDP growth to be so miserable. The size of the active workforce as a share of the total population fell from 64.5% in November of 2010 to 63.8% last month even as the economy was slowly expanding.

Remember our post from last week? More people went on disability insurance last month than found new jobs. On the third anniversary of the start of this “recovery”. The only question, which I believe we’ve answered beyond objection, is whether this misery is by design or mere incompetence.

Bottom line: The $800 billion stimulus does not seem to have produced the sort of economic growth — less than 2% instead of over 4% — that was predicted, raising serious question about whether another round should be tried, as the White House and some left-of-center economics contend.

They probably don’t care if they get it or not. If they do, it means more slush money for public sector unions, as last time; if they don’t, they can blame Republicans for stifling “growth” (if 1.7% can be so termed).

A final word on intention versus ignorance: they are not mutually exclusive, and some liberals can be one, some the other. Hiding behind the intellectual banner of Keynesianism gives the ignorant some cover, but then so does it for the more malevolent. The basic fact is that Democrats want a command economy as much as any Soviet apparatchick or Chinese party secretary. The difference is that the Russians and the Chinese knew how bogus the whole construct was; only some Democrats do.

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Your Government at Work

Shouldn’t they have to erect one of those dumb green America Recovery and Reinvest Act signs at places like this?

Early this year, I was briefly involved with one of the Affordable Care Act’s bureaucracies called the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, or CMMI. Despite its lofty ideals, it is one more pork program and venue for political cronyism, as I learned firsthand.

This January, I was invited to review grant applications for something called the Health Care Innovation Challenge. Local health systems, state Medicaid programs and the like could apply for awards ranging from $1 million to $30 million, with priority for “projects that rapidly hire, train and deploy new types of health care workers.” I was selected to become one of the chairmen overseeing the volunteer panels of outside experts. Our grant application reviews were supposed to help the CMMI in making the final award decisions. There were more than 3,000 grant applications in total.

Having written numerous other federal grant applications as a medical researcher, I was surprised by the very short time allotted to review 12 applications, each of which ran more than 100 pages. We had only two weeks to assemble a team and grade the applications on such criteria as the promise of the project design and its workforce goals.

That is when I sent a memo to CMMI Director Richard Gilfillan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. I said that the rushed process was simply collecting “junk in, junk out” reviews. When I received no response, I left the CMMI program as well. Based on my experience, it seems unlikely that the 3,000 applications were closely vetted.

In May, the innovation center announced the first batch of grant recipients, 26 in all. George Washington University earned $1,939,127 because it expected to reduce health costs by a mere $1.7 million. Similarly, the Center for Health Care Services in San Antonio received $4,557,969 to save $5 million. At least CMMI didn’t pick one of the thinly veiled handout requests that I personally oversaw, such as a for-profit company that claimed to offer holistic healing through human touch.

Of particular note was a $5,862,027 grant to the University of Chicago medical center to “train and create new jobs for an estimated 90 individuals from this high-poverty, diverse community.” The program is part of the school’s Urban Health Initiative. Perhaps creating this is a noble use of federal funds, but job creation seems far afield from the CMMI mission to innovate.

And now my favorite part:

Dr. Donald Berwick was Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from July 2010 to December 2011. CMMI, which was established during his tenure, started another program called the Partnership for Patients. That $500 million initiative is supposed to reduce hospital-acquired conditions and hospital readmissions.

In December 2011, the Partnership for Patients awarded a contract to the Health Research and Education Trust, which in turn awarded a subcontract to the Boston-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement—which Dr. Berwick ran for 19 years before he moved to Medicare. A source involved with Partnership for Patients told me about the relationship.

I emailed Dr. Berwick in May to confirm the subcontracts between the institute and the trust. “I don’t think there are contracts between them, but they’re good friends,” he replied. He was careful to note that he is no longer the institute’s CEO, though he now works out of the institute’s Boston offices as an adviser. The Health Research and Education Trust and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement have not responded to requests for information about the subcontract.

Even if the innovation center’s grants were chosen via a squeaky-clean peer-review system and awarded solely on merit, they would still be a waste of taxpayer money because Medicare should not be straying from its core competencies into areas like job creation. Congress ought to dismantle and defund the program if CMMI survives the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The Left won’t see it this way. They’ll say job creation is a good thing (it is, though largely irrelevant to government); Medicare is a good thing (meh); conflict of interest is a good thing when the interests are “noble” and “honorable” (and “remunerative”); spending $1.9 million of our money to save $1.7 is a good thing (to them it is). To them, spending money at all is good. They just don’t see what the problem is.

Which is why every day is stimulus day in ObamAmerica, and why we’re in danger of slipping back into recession.

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Hilarious

FYI, the media thinks this is in poor taste. Your intrepid reporter thinks it’s funny. Go figure.

- Aggie

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The Business of Government is Income Redistribution

You thought it was national defense and security, but you would be wrong. In so many small and not so small ways, government programs are meant to take from the undeserving rich and give to virtuous poor.

Care to dispute that? Half the populace pays no federal income tax; top earners pay way beyond their “fair share”—the higher the earners, the greater burden they bear. How about health insurance? Half the populace doesn’t use it in a given year, and if you don’t use it in one year, you’re not likely to use it the next (this trend eventually ends, obviously). Yet we’re about to require everyone to carry health insurance, and we’re about to tell them how much.

Unemployment insurance! It goes forever now, right? Think it’s just paid for by the goose that lays the golden egg? Nope, businesses do, via their taxes, and small businesses bear the biggest burden.

Now, how about that payroll tax cut we have been blessed with? Where does that money come from?

The new fee is a minimum of one-tenth of 1 percent on Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed loans, and is likely to go much higher.

It will be imposed for the next 10 years on most mortgages and refinancings and it lasts for the life of the loan.

For every $200,000, it amounts to an extra $15 dollars a month.

It’s bad news for Patty Anderson, who’s buying a home in Virginia.

Anderson will save a couple hundred dollars from having her payroll tax cut extended but her mortgage broker told her the new fee would cost her almost $9,500.

“I was absolutely startled that it would add up to that much,” she said.

Hey, thanks Patty! What a swell broad! And she’s not even rich (from the sound of it).

When Bill Clinton gave Juanita Broderick a fat lip, he at least suggested she get an ice pack. What’s Patty Anderson get?

The $35.7 billion collected in fees won’t go into the Social Security fund to replace the lost payroll tax. It goes to the general treasury where Congress can spend it however they please.

When Patty retires (if Patty retires), she won’t be burdened by any bothersome Social Security checks. (Who can keep track of those worthless things?) There won’t be any Social Security!

Thanks for playing “Who Wants to be an American in the 21st Century?”, Patty! Better luck next time.

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Just Say No.

thomas.jpg
Tim Thomas did

Opposed to what he called the “out of control” growth of the federal government, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas declined an invitation to join his teammates at the White House on Monday.

The award-winning Thomas, who last year led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup championship emblematic of National Hockey League supremacy, was one of three players missing when President Barack Obama met with the team to offer congratulations.

According to a story on the team’s website, www.bostonbruins.com, Thomas “opted out” of the White House visit. One of the other missing players was injured, and the third now plays for another team, according to the website story.

A statement by the 37-year-old Thomas posted Monday on the team website said he opposed the “out of control” growth of the federal government that threatened “the rights, liberties, and property of the people.”

“This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the federal government,” the statement said. “Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.”

Good for him. (Or are we supposed to assume that he’s a raaacist?)

- Aggie

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Qaddafi Was a Bargain!

Best point from James Taranto’s column today:

One difference between Obama’s foreign and domestic policies is that the former are conducted in a relatively economical fashion. National Journal reports that “according to the Pentagon, [this] was the cost to U.S. taxpayers for Muammar el-Qaddafi’s head: $1.1 billion through September, the latest figure just out of the Defense Department.”

At that rate, you could knock off 400 dictators for $440 billion–still less than Obama wants to waste on Stimulus Jr. That’s the best illustration yet of just how skewed this administration’s priorities are.

And not one cop was raped while a fire fighter was laid off while saving a teacher’s burning house during the kinetic military action.

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