Updates: The Senate vote is at 5:30 p.m. ET on C-Span2.
Breaking News via WaPo: Stimulus Bill Clears Procedural Hurdle in Senate : “Senate votes to move forward on a compromise version of the bill crafted last week to attract a handful of GOP votes. Even if the Senate approves the measure in a subsequent vote, it has to be reconciled with a bill passed earlier by the House.” (Yeah, Nancy is really good at reconciling.)
SEE ALSO, via Bloomberg: “U.S. Taxpayers Risk $9.7 Trillion on Bailout Programs (Update1)”: ” The stimulus package the U.S. Congress is completing would raise the government’s commitment to solving the financial crisis to $9.7 trillion, enough to pay off more than 90 percent of the nation’s home mortgages.”
(This makes my head hurt.)
What country is that you’re president of, Barack? “An America”?
Now for the serious stuff, where Obama is telling the American people a flat-out lie about oversight of this stimulus package. Yeah, there’ll be as much oversight as there was of millions and millions of Illinois taxpayers’ money going to his cronies Tony Rezko and the father/son robber baron duo, Allison and Cullin Davis:
Thanks to a smart, but little-noticed article done by NPR, we know that that is NOT true. The only oversight of money given to states will occur when it is TOO LATE. As the NPR article below notes:
The bill does make it possible for lawmakers and the public to track the money — but only after it’s spent.
A hell of a lot of good that will do! Why? Because, even though Obama brags that his bill doesn’t have “a single earmark in it,” that’s precisely the problem. YES! Earmarks can be, and often are, a GOOD thing, because they pre-determine HOW the money will be spent with members of Congress conferring with their state’s local leaders for which projects are most needed.
I don’t know about you and your situation, but I trust my Congressman — a true public servant with extensive experience and a great position on the all-important Appropriations Committee — to do the right thing when he seeks an “earmark” for our area. And I trust my Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
I’ve never heard a word of complaint — ever — by anyone who lives in this area about the projects that bring this area jobs, money, and opportunities, as well as the kinds of projects that yield long-term benefits to all citizens.
All three (my congressman and the two senators) go over the area’s major needs with our county commissioners, elected city officials and local leaders, and also look longterm at which projects will yield the “most bang for the buck.” Right now, through their earmarks, they’re replacing four dangerous bridges, building a new transit center that greatly improves the look and tourist attractions of the downtown area, and building a vocational training center. ALL PORK IS NOT BAD. Because if it’s done right, it helps the communities that need it the most.
OF NOTE in the article below: “NPR quotes Rep. David Obey: “House Appropriations Chairman on Stimulus Waste: ‘So What’… ”
When congressional leaders began to assemble the mammoth economic stimulus bill, top Democrats and the Obama administration decided that there would be no earmarks: no “special projects,” no pork-barrel spending. In so doing, they gave up some control over how the money is spent, leaving the decision to public servants around the country.
“Someone has to decide how money gets spent. It’s either going to be Congress or the executive branch or states or municipalities,” says Fred Wertheimer of the congressional watchdog group Democracy 21.
Lawmakers had good reasons for stripping earmarks from the bill, Wertheimer says, because “they are simply going to become huge targets for attacking the credibility of the package, and they may very well end up as abusive earmarks.” [BUT IS THAT TARGETING THE RIGHT PLACE FOR OUR ANGER???]
It was a wise political decision, he says. But pulling earmarks out of the bill changes the balance of power in the government. If members of Congress aren’t writing into the bill how the money will be spent, then someone else must make those decisions — or, in this case, a lot of people.
“Because there is so much money here, and in so many different forms, there is no single pathway for the money to go out to states and localities,” says Sarah Binder of the Brookings Institution.
‘This Is An Emergency’
When this bill passes, a Niagara Falls of money will flow out of Washington and into the accounts of state highway commissioners, governors and legislatures, local school boards, county executives — even mayors, Binder says.
“It raises a whole host of questions about how efficiently money can be spent, how effectively it will be spent, how quickly money can be spent, just because there’s no set process here for determining how money will get out the door to create jobs or, as the president said, to save jobs,” she says.
U.S. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, helped write the bill and says he doesn’t like being asked about earmarks.
“We simply made a decision, which took about three seconds, not to have earmarks in the bill,” he says. “And with all due respect, that’s the least important question facing us on putting together this package.”
Leaving out the earmarks does mean Congress will have less control over how the money is spent. But, Obey says, “So what? This is an emergency. We’ve got to simply find a way to get this done as fast as possible and as well as possible, and that’s what we’re doing.”
That doesn’t mean Congress will be responsible if the money is spent badly, he says.
“The person who spends the money badly will be responsible. We are simply trying to build as many protections in as possible,” Obey says. “We have more oversight built into this package than any package in the history of man. If money is spent badly, we want to know about it so we can hold accountable the people who made that choice. And guess what? Regardless of what we do, there will be some stupid decisions made.”
How To Avoid Disappointment?
As it stands now, says David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general, the bill appears to have no mechanism for directing spending. It’s left up to those state and local officials, who may or may not have the ideas or the means to spend it appropriately. And that will lead to “a series of disappointments that it’s too late to do anything about,” Walker says.
The bill does make it possible for lawmakers and the public to track the money — but only after it’s spent. And that, he says, will lead to bad surprises.
Take, for example, the giant bank bailout known as TARP. That spending has gone all wrong, Walker says. Though the inspector general and the Government Accountability Office are keeping track of the billions spent there, “they’re basically reporting on what didn’t happen,” he says.
“Well, it’s a little bit late,” he says. “And so the question is, what are you going to do on a prospective basis? I mean, you can’t change history. What are you going to do on a prospective basis to minimize the possibility of being disappointed again?”
I was browsing through CNN’s videos and, lo and behold, ran across this video. This is fascinating: Men are experiencing 7.6% unemployment, but women are hit by 6.2% unemployment.
But I wonder about those stats. Far more women tend to need to work part-time jobs, and I bet the loss of those jobs isn’t reflected in these stats.
What say you?