‘Stimulus’ legislation undermines economy

Stephen Ontko

The United States is in a crisis, influenced – not caused – by the global recession during an era whereby the trillion-dollar deficit has been achieved.

No, the real crisis is the persistence of Barack Obama and many of his democratic and moderate republican colleagues who refuse to acknowledge the warning signs and pursue policies that are dangerous to our republic.

Rather than weigh the costs of exponentially increasing the U.S. deficit, Obama disconcertingly attempts to rush a spending bill through congress, claiming it will rectify the situation of being “in the midst of our greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” as the Associated Press reported Feb. 8.

Not only is Obama’s statement factually inaccurate, (Friday’s unemployment rate is the worst since Sept. 1992, not 1932) but is a pathetic ploy to enact his policies with little debate. And there’s little reason why an $800 billion spending bill shouldn’t be debated, especially when it’s highly questionable such a bill would act as a “stimulus” to the economy.

A bill bringing us into deficits of this magnitude begs the question of where the funding will actually come from. The AP reported Jan. 30, 2006 that Americans hardly save and actually had negative savings rates in 2005, which means Americans would find it difficult funding their government’s debt through buying securities themselves.

With a negative savings rate, it’s no wonder the U.S. is forced to fund its public debt through foreigners such as China and Japan. Why doesn’t Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner see this? He would rather continue the bickering over China “manipulating” its currency for unfair trade advantage; but someone has to pay for U.S. expenditures (even when he decides he won’t by not paying his own taxes).

While having relied on foreign funding for our government’s deficits, troubling trends have emerged. Those foreign creditors of our debt aren’t immune to the global recession, having less money to buy our debt.

Bloomberg stated Feb. 2 that China’s exports declined to their lowest since 1999 along with 20 million migrant workers becoming unemployed. Reuters noted on Jan. 22 that Japanese exports fell 35 percent in December from the year prior. With these countries losing the opportunities they once had in the U.S. economy, they have neither the incentive, nor as much of an ability to pay off our own debt. As George Melloan mentions in his column in the Wall Street Journal Feb. 6, China and Japan together account for 19 percent of total U.S. national debt.

Despite the lack of a funding for U.S. debt, Obama and the democrats want to add this $800 billion “stimulus” on top of the $1.2 trillion projected deficit for fiscal year 2009, according to the New York Times on Jan. 22. What’s worse, this “stimulus” bill includes, as ABC reported Jan. 22, $400 million for global warming research, $2.4 billion for “carbon-capture demonstration projects,” along with, as the Washington Times’ findings on Jan. 29, $335 million for sexually transmitted disease prevention, the Senate wanting to increase that to $400 million.

The only sector of the economy this bill stimulates is the Democratic party’s special interests, not significant engines of the economy that will boost employment and growth for the long term.

As the Wall Street Journal noted in its editorial Feb. 6, if the “stimulus” money isn’t spent more productively than it would have where the money was taken, the economic costs of the “stimulus” will be higher yet. Also noted in the editorial was that the deficit will reach a high of 12 percent of our gross domestic product. This is sobering, given all the earmarks and other unwise provisions (the Wall Street Journal notes in another editorial on Jan. 28 that the bill includes $1 billion for Amtrak, which hasn’t been profitable in 40 years!).

It is a travesty that the Democrats and Obama would rather succumb to their own constituencies and engage in the politics-as-usual approach during an urgent time of economic distress. This underscores the hypocrisy of Obama’s politics of “change.”

In addition to a lack of credit available to fund these massive amounts of debt several generations from now will have to pay, printing the money necessary to fund all of this spending risks the inflationary nightmare of the 1970s. Obama’s policies have all of these great costs with so little economic stimulus to show for it. A new type of politics, all right.

Stephen Ontko is a senior economics major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].