Alice in Washington

by Russ Roberts on December 22, 2008

in Politics

The Washington Post is worried about the stimulus plan that the Obama administration seems sure to pass:

Yet concern about transparency has given way to concern that the
economic crisis will be used as an excuse to throw sacks of cash at
projects instead of leading to the development of discrete proposals
that pack a lot of punch in the short term. That Mr. Obama is
reportedly prepared for his plan to rise from as little as $670 billion
to as much as $850 billion because of additions from Congress only
reinforces that fear.

An excuse to throw sacks of cash at projects. You think? Could it possibly happen? The Post continues:

"We’re not intending to spend money lightly," Mr. Obama said Friday
while refusing to put a firm price tag on his stimulus package, the
goal of which is to create or preserve at least 3 million jobs over the
next two years. That may be, but we’ve seen this before. In fact, it
was in late September, when the financial rescue plan, billed as
desperately needed for the economy’s survival, was larded up with
unrelated measures that couldn’t pass on their own. With every
constituency that has gone begging for federal money for years now
developing wish lists for Washington to consider, it could happen
again. It mustn’t. We agree with Alice

I interrupted that last line in mid-sentence. What should come next is the phrase "in Wonderland" and then something about meaning what you say is the same as saying what you mean. Unfortunately, the actual next word in the phrase is "Rivlin" as in Alice Rivlin who was Clinton’s budget director. But I do love these two sentences very much:

With every
constituency that has gone begging for federal money for years now
developing wish lists for Washington to consider, it could happen
again. It mustn’t.

Alas, it must. Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. People are going to try to get the money till the day they die. It’s the way of the world. To think otherwise is to live down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass.

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{ 5 comments }

Ike December 22, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Alice in Wonderland comparisons seem apt after an election between Tweedledum and Tweedledumber.

Sam Grove December 22, 2008 at 2:47 pm

It seems like the main excuse for government interventions is wishful thinking.

vidyohs December 23, 2008 at 7:15 am
Brandon December 23, 2008 at 9:59 am

I love how the article states that the goal of the plan is to "create or preserve at least 3 million jobs over the next two years." During the run-up to the election Obama touted "job creation" Now it is simply preservation? It makes no difference, I suppose, for politicians cannot accomplish either of these goals. The plan is also an easy political victory for Obama: Spend some money, get lucky and have stable employment, and voila! you’re a hero for saving the economy.

JP January 8, 2009 at 3:11 am

You know what I'd pay 850 billion for? Shocking the education system into reforming itself. Maybe after finally seeing its inability to equip millions of Americans with the tools to compete for and create their own jobs, it could change.

You know what would be even better? Getting that systemic shock for free by not having a stimulus plan at all.

No? Neither of those? Oh, so we are going to drop the expectations for American workers' skillsets down to public works construction and manual labor? And in effect this will cover for the education system's failure to equip those very workers with higher paying skill sets?

I guess I would care… if I knew what a feedback loop was…
but then, I never learned about those in school…

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