The Stimulus Failed, (Part 1), Do you want your grandchildren to pay for your walking bridge?

TWO RIVERS BRIDGE: Opening nears.

People just don’t understand how wasteful government can be and how giving government more control of our lives destroys much of the freedom that we should have. This series on the stimulus demostrates these points. This whole series started because of a post I did on July 6, 2011 about an post in the Arkansas Times Blog.

On July 6, 2011 on the Arkansas Times Blog I posted concerning the walking bridge in Little Rock that stimulus funds help build:

Tim Griffin spoke in Central Arkansas recently at a townhall meeting and mentioned that a couple of million of stimulus money went to build the walking bridge in Little Rock that will be opening this summer. Then he went on to show how it was silly for our government to try to stimulate the economy with our national credit card.
Steve Chapman rightly noted in his article “Stimulus to Nowhere” noted:

The federal government took out loans that it will have to cover with future tax increases … so states don’t have to. It’s like paying your Visa bill with your MasterCard.

The person using the username “Arkansas Panic Fan” responded:

Bridge = good stuff for Central Arkansas. Not sure why it is a bad thing. It is your money at work here being used for your benefit. I applaud this type of government activity. This is the type of project and progress you can see, touch, smell, hear.

That being said, Saline Republican, is this a waste of your money? You can use it as you wish.


Let me respond with several points:

1. If the bridge is such a good thing then why can’t those who are excited about it get the funds to build it?

2. If you applaud the government for spending money for every good idea out there, ultimately where does all the money come from? Our grandchildren will be paying off this bridge in about 50 years if our country survives.

3. Building things with the government involvement is the most wasteful thing that you can do. How long does it take them to get the highway work done?  Turn the highways over to private enterprise and things would change radically for the good. Do you get great service from Fed Ex or the U.S.Post Office? I had two relatives tell me stories of working part time at the post office and each time they were told to “slow down or you will get us all fired.”

4. The stimulus approach taken by President Obama has been to blow up our deficit when he should have sought to cut spending because the signs were there at the end of the Bush era that the recession was deepening. Instead, he decided to increase the spending even more than Bush had.

J.D. Foster’s testimony on Feb 16, 2011 before Congress shows how stupid the spending stimulus was:

My name is J.D. Foster. I am the Norman B. Ture Senior Fellow in the Economics of Fiscal Policy at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage Foundation.

At best, stimulus efforts based on government spending and tax cuts with little or no incentive effects have done no harm. At best. It is quite possible most of these efforts over the past couple of years have slowed the recovery while adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt.

The record is all the more unfortunate because it is possible for a President and Congress to work together to stimulate the economy to faster growth during and after a recession. They can do so by improving incentives to produce and to work: for example, by reducing regulations and tax distortions. They can do so by reducing the uncertainties surrounding future policy. They can do so by expanding foreign markets for domestic goods and services. Recent efforts to stimulate the economy have been unsuccessful because they did little or none of these things. Regulations have increased. Uncertainty has increased. Tax distortions have been left in place or even increased in some areas. And efforts toward free trade have been anemic, at best.

Stimulus can work, but it has not worked because the Administration took another approach, emphasizing tax relief with little or no incentive effects combined with massive increases in spending. The President inherited a ballooning budget deficit and opted to grow it further. At best, this would be expected to be ineffectual. At best, because the resulting increased deficits infused economic decision-making with even more uncertainty about the consequences of massive deficit spending and how and when government will act to restore fiscal sanity.

Fortunately, the economy is showing clear signs of sustained recovery; uneven recovery to be sure, stronger in some areas than others both geographically and by industry, but recovery nonetheless. Despite the tremendous blows from the financial crisis and all that it entailed, the underlying strengths of our free market system once again are at work, giving expression to the vitality, energy, and innovation of the American people. Make no mistake: Our economy is recovering despite—not because of—the actions taken in Washington to grow it.

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