I was SO frustrated with a piece I heard on the radio this morning
about Paul Ryan's (R-WI) speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday. Ryan, like many other Republicans these days, attacked the stimulus package and picked out some specific parts as examples to ridicule. Here's what he said:
"This budget buster did not have a single republican vote in the house, and do you want to know why? 600 million dollars to buy green cars for bureaucrats, 50 million dollars to subsidize more obscene art through the NEA. 400 million dillars to study sexually transmitted diseases.... "
I'm just not sure what Republicans are going for with these attacks... the idea of the stimulus is to stimulate the economy, right? And the way to stimulate the economy is to inject cash into it. That can be done one of two ways -- either the government gives the money directly to taxpayers, or the government spends money.
Non-partisan economic research has shown that the latter provides more stimulus to the economy than the former. (See Mark Zandi's 1/21/09 report here
, specifically Table 2: Fiscal Bang for the Buck, which shows tax cuts providing "Bang for Buck" rates in the 0.25 - 1.28 range, and spending in the 1.38 to 1.73 range). Government spending also has the added benefit of getting things done for the country
Let's look at some of the projects that have been mocked..."Buying green cars for bureaucrats..."
I have the final text of the stimulus bill as passed by congress and signed by the president. I searched for this (contrary to what Rush Limbaugh told his listeners
, a PDF file is searchable), and found $300, not $600, million in a section called "ENERGY-EFFICIENT FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE FLEET PROCUREMENT." The section provides money to the GSA to replace older vehicles in it's huge fleet with new, energy efficient (commercially available hybrid, electric, and plug-in hybrid) vehicles. That sounds like a good idea, right? Higher fuel economy, lower emissions, and lots of BUYING CARS which will stimulate the auto industry and the thousands of people it employs. I've driven and/or ridden in dozens of GSA vehicles due to my military travel... I wonder if that makes me a bureaucrat."More Obscene Art Through the NEA..."
The National Endowment for the Arts
makes grants to a wide range of programs
, including after-school, summer, and in-classroom programs for schoolchildren, public gardens, art and music festivals, independent film festivals and theater groups, and the creation of various fellowships in the arts. Some of the works that have been funded (directly and indirectly) by the NEA have offended some people. A number of years ago, the late Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) attacked the National Endowment for the Arts over what he called obscene and anti-religious artwork. I remember the works in question, and agree that some were quite critical of religion, and others featured adult themes and even (GASP!) nudity. These projects made up a tiny fraction of the overall NEA budget, and many were presented by theatre and performance groups who got general startup or support money from the NEA, not specific grants for these projects. Do Republicans really think that because a few artistic works offended some people's religious sensibilities, we shouldn't spend money putting people to work in the arts, or teaching the arts to children?"400 million dillars to study sexually transmitted diseases..."
I actually couldn't find this in the final version of the bill that was signed by the President. I know that earlier versions did have $400 million "for the screening and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV." I've heard complaints about that amount on two different fronts: First, that "sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV," shouldn't get research funding because people who contract them are to blame, and don't deserve to be helped. This is obviously absurd... I work in pulmonary research, and don't see anyone trying to eliminate funding for the myriad other diseases that are preventable via behavior modification. Lung cancer? COPD? Adult onset diabetes? Also, plenty of people are living with HIV today who contracted it without sexual contact.
The second argument against this research funding is that it wouldn't create jobs. I'm not sure if that's based on any logic, or just sounds good to angry mobs of conservatives. I sat in a research meeting this morning where we discussed staffing. Our research is almost entirely NIH (National Institutes of Health) funded, and when we learned that there was money in the stimulus for our field, we realized that more grants on the edge of the funding threshold would be approved. People whose positions would have otherwise been eliminated are now more likely to have jobs in the future. Our director actually said, "Depending on how much comes down to us from the stim, we'll figure out how many new staff we'll be able to hire." Republicans like to yell and scream that government doesn't create jobs, but what do they call that?
Oh, and speaking of projects that Republicans are quick to mock, I was equally furious about Governor Bobby Jindal's (R-LA) comments earlier this week about "something called volcano monitoring." That something is exactly what it sounds like: monitoring deadly geological features of our planet to provide early warnings to populations of Americans at home and abroad, all the while, employing scientists and support staff at an agency that faced layoffs during the Bush administration. More jobs and increased homeland security... that, my friends, is what Bobby Jindal mocked on national TV this week.
[Cross posted from Eric's Occasional Outburst