Stimulus 2009: Our Tax Dollars are “Chump Change”?

February 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Economics

I try hard to keep pure politics out of my writing.  My hard truth concerns with the stimulus/spendulus bill are economic, not political.  

Yet, it is hard to ignore some of the statements being made about the Obama stimulus plan by politicians.  Thus, my advice to Obama and his party’s leadership is to back down the political rhetoric and let Obama’s economic team be the public voice for the merits of the plan.

Where are those economic advisers?  Have they been effectively muzzled by political interests?  Do they share my concern that there can’t be a lot of pure economic good inside a stimulus bill that has reached 700 pages in length and is still growing?

Turning to the rhetoric, have you noticed that President Obama’s battle cry for his stimulus plan has changed?  When he first proposed it, the plan was going to “create 3 million jobs.”  More recently – including in his speech to the Democratic Caucus last night – Obama claimed his plan would “save or create over 3 million jobs.”  Sticking the word “save” in there (probably on advice of his economic and political advisers) was subtle but calculated.  If this plan fails to stimulate re-hiring (which is my concern), he can still say he “saved” millions of jobs.  There is no metric for jobs that are “saved” in an economy as large as ours.  At election time, he can make any claim he wants in that category because there is no way to measure or dispute it. 

Yesterday, one of Obama’s Democratic operatives in the House described money spent on features of the spendulus plan under attack by Republicans as “chump change.”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t appreciate any politician referring to even a single dollar of my taxes as “chump change.”  If it’s that insignificant, take it out of the bill and send it back to me.

I have another concern about the likely failure of the stimulus plan, apart from the wasteful spending of our collective “chump change.”  Economic data shows that the private sector re-hiring rate is falling faster than the lay-off rate.  (Source:  Macroblog)   I don’t believe that creating government and temporary infrastructure jobs – which is what this plan does – is going to materially alter that pattern.  

Here is what I propose:  Let Obama’s economic team (not his political hacks) go on national television in a TV studio equipped with anonymous electronic voting consoles.  (We want honesty from the economists, unconstrained by fear of political reprisal.)  Then we slowly scroll the Obama stimulus plan on a giant display screen, pausing at each spending line item.  Each of the economic advisers pushes an “up” or “down” button based on a single question:  Will this item create jobs now?  If an item does not receive a majority vote, it is stripped from the bill, perhaps to be separately considered at another time when we are not in crisis.

I think this would be the ultimate reality show, probably watched by millions of concerned taxpayers.  Maybe we could call it something like “We Don’t Want to be the Biggest Loser” or “American Chump Change.”

Would you watch?

Image credit:  Sufi Nawaz
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8 Responses to “Stimulus 2009: Our Tax Dollars are “Chump Change”?”
  1. Marc says:

    In regards to 100 billion dollars being “chump change”

    From the article:
    Melancon, a fiscal conservative, said he didn’t support every program in the House bill.

    “We couldn’t explain some of them,” he said. For instance, “how does giving out condoms put people back to work?”

    But Melancon criticized Republicans who focused on only a small fraction of the stimulus bill, calling it “chump change.”

    Melancon is a fiscal conservative!

  2. Brilliant! It would never happen, but still brilliant.


  3. Love the reality idea! Why not use a pop culture format? I mean, Obama ran an infomercial right before election day and won, so there really should’t be any objection to “America’s Next Top $timulator”.

  4. kitty says:

    Good. I don’t know about voting contest, but I sure would like them to go through the bill line-by-line and to explain to us how each of the items would create jobs.

    But… The market seems to be happy. If we are (very) lucky, we may get a rally and a selling opportunity out of it.

  5. MasterPo says:

    You took the “chump change” comment totally out of context, as well as quoting from a very anti-Republican/bias source (CNN).

    He was refering to the tiny amounts of pork spending here and there in the bill in terms of not being enough to make any significant difference.

    I’m disappointed. I expect better from you. :-(

  6. Nate, Kate, Kitty – Thanks for the thumbs up but I don’t know if the market will stay happy.

    MasterPo – I know exactly what was said and who said it. My point is that I do not want any politician spending my money if he thinks $100 million is chump change. These guys are becoming immune to big numbers.

  7. Mark says:


    He is right on with the way he took the “chump change” comment and you helped make his argument. If it is tiny amounts of pork and spending here in there that makes no significant difference than take it out. That is all most of the critics are asking for anyway. Take out the junk and pass a real stimulus bill.


  8. AnAmericanLiberal says:

    Have you ever been in a car where the battery inexplicably failed to work correctly? Or have you by chance ever had a flat tire? In either case there are a number of items to help get you on your way (a jump, spare tire, foam, etc.). Most of the solutions are temporary, and which one is best, well that is a debate unto itself.

    The engine that is our economy has stalled and pieces of it are starting to fly through the air. The stimulus plan is a jump start using every single tool at our disposal. Tax cuts, construction, infrastructure, and even some long term economic policy objectives (green research, even scientists need jobs) are all being thrown into a big package to give that jolt to the economy. I believe the goal to to artificially stimulate the economy for two years and hope that the Treasury Department, businesses, and others can find ways to resolve the underlying problems of the economy. That’s right, we are keeping the engine running while the mechanics fix the problem.

    While I applaud efforts to keep the pork out of the bill (and it looks pretty slimmed down now) this thing needs to be shoved through quickly. Otherwise we sit here watching our economy implode.

    As to the Republicans, I love you guys, but your advice on the economy is sketchy at the moment. Please quit looking for an open mic, and take some responsibility for your party’s mismanagement of our economy. If I hear one of you say that laws insisted banks make risky loans one more time, I am coming down there to throttle the stupid out of the lot of you. The US does not make the banks do anything it doesn’t want to, and you all know it.


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