Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

"We Can't Quite Believe It" --Well, try looking around.


Rupert Murdock’s Wall Street Journal [editorial board?] runs down the Obama stimulus program and has this to say: Go here for full article

We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it.
They are of one mind that the Obama “stimulus” does not create jobs or stimulate the economy to any great degree. Here, specifically is what they “can’t quite believe.”

There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years;
I guess straightening tracks and upgrading safety technology on Amtrak is supposed to happen without any workers performing these tasks. And no profit, the only engine that should ever be considered in moving this country. So why would this country need a railroad transportation network?

$2 billion for child-care subsidies;
Early childhood experiences are a key to success in later life, whether that “success” be measured by educational outcomes, good health, family stability or income earned in a lifetime. As with Amtrak, child-care does not turn a “profit” in the usual sense of the term. But money for more and better staffed, fairly paid, child-care workers is well spent–in the short as well as long term.

$50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts;
Ah. A favorite of mine. Call it my very own “pet” project. The truth is that we as a nation care and feed our pets, the four-legged kind, much better than we do our artists and the arts. And arts are good business. Cities thrive and grow with the arts. This $50 million is such a pittance in the face of the needs of the art community, in comparison with what democratic developed nations around the world spend on the arts, that one wonders if the WSJ critics presented this objection with a straight face. By the way, $50 million out of an $819 billion stimulus adds up to a munificent total of 6/1000s of 1% of the stimulus package.$400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects.
Oh, right, no jobs or profits or infra-structure benefits here. Do these people who regularly lambaste us with the “entrepreneurial spirit” club have no imagination at all?

There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.
Though this is another Bush administration incompetence type fiasco, in the spirit of bipartisanship I say drop this program and shift the $650 million into the NEA and NEH.

Another "stimulus" secret is that some $252 billion is for income-transfer payments -- that is, not investments that arguably help everyone, but cash or benefits to individuals for doing nothing at all.
Leaving aside the spurious "secret" charge (only these guys broke the code?!) , now we get to the heart of the matter. The undeserving poor (which increasingly includes large swaths of the middle-class) who, in the eyes of the WSJ editors, sit around and collect entitlements while the rest of us do the work of America. And some of these working Americans just collected $18 billion in bonuses for their vital contribution in the building of America's financial system.

Herbert Hoover fed starving Europeans after World War I. Starving Americans? Not so much. He wrote a book in 1922, American Individualism, which characterized the spirit that made the USA a nation not be sullied by government handouts. It would kill the “individualism” so unique in the American people. But people living in the real world recognize that starvation--for food and health care and shelter--is a great equalizer. This starvation demeans and cripples all regardless of which flag you wear in your lapel. Individualism is crushed by joblessness, poverty and the lack of health care and educational opportunity.

All of the following programs, which the WSJ “can’t quite believe,” recognize these facts about the corroding influence economic distress has on human beings, their families, their individuality.

There's $81 billion for Medicaid,

$36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits,

$20 billion for food stamps,

$83 billion for the earned income credit for people who don't pay income tax.
So we get to the WSJ bottom line, which really isn’t a line at all but an ideological box. They simply choose to live in this box as they shut out the rest of the world.

While some of that may be justified to help poorer Americans ride out the recession, they aren't job creators.
Congress and the American people will decide if this is the case. The Obama stimulus is a close relative to the Three Rs of FDR’s New Deal-–Relief, Recovery and Reform. As we slip ever deeper into the Bush Depression we desperately need all three.

Look around this town, this state, this country. Unlike the Wall Street Journal editors, you can believe in this needed stimulus program because, as Bush use to say, you can feel it in your gut. Of course, he was talking about war and you're just feeling hungry.

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