Thursday, February 5, 2009

Americans wisely turning against stimulus plan

By Lynn Westmoreland

It seems like every other day an old friend or business partner calls to let me know that they’re declaring bankruptcy or going out of business.

We can all agree that the United States needs a federal stimulus plan to give our crippled economy a jolt. Our economy shrank 3.8 percent in the last quarter. Jobless claims have mushroomed to 626,000. Stock portfolios and retirement plans have lost 30 percent or more of their values.

But Americans have figured out that the $816 billion plan that passed the House with no Republican votes carries as much danger to the republic as it does hope. In fact, polls show support rapidly declining; today, just 37 percent of Americans favor the current stimulus legislation, down from 45 percent just two weeks ago. That’s startling, considering that Americans are increasingly nervous about huge job losses, business failures and home foreclosures.

Americans are turning against the bill because they know we can craft a much better bill that will simultaneously cost less and create more jobs.

But first, let’s discuss the price tag. The House-passed version totals $816 billion. Once you factor in the finance charges on borrowing that money, the total crests over $1 trillion.

It’s almost useless to discuss a trillion-dollar figure because it’s a number we can’t really comprehend. We’re more likely to get incensed by the government wasting $25,000 than $25,000,000,000 because one number we can understand and the other one is basically inconceivable. This is a problem.

One way to put this in perspective is comparisons. Liberals have complained for years over the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, Nancy Pelosi’s stimulus bill costs more than both those wars combined. Put another way, if you spent $1 million every day since the day that Jesus was born, you would have spent less than this one piece of legislation appropriates.

Even without this new spending, the federal deficit would top $1 trillion and our debt has soared to $11 trillion. This has real-world consequences. We risk further devaluing our currency and scaring off foreign investors who have seen Uncle Sam as a “safe” place to keep their money.

The Democrats’ stimulus plan focuses more on fulfilling liberals’ pent-up wish list over the eight years than it does with creating or saving jobs. In Georgia, we desperately need transportation infrastructure but spending on those job-creating projects is only 6 percent of the bill.

Instead, the bill spends hundreds of millions and often billions on items such as facelifts for national parks, buying new cars for the federal fleet and repairing federal buildings. Those may all be great but won’t stimulate the economy. Plus, we’re setting a dangerous precedent by spending billions to bail out states’ Medicare and Medicaid shortfalls; I fear this will become a permanent expectation.

Republicans are offering an alternative plan that reduces spending, allows families and businesses to keep more of their own money and actually creates MORE jobs than the Democratic plan. The Republican plan lowers tax rates for individuals, families and small businesses; it removes taxes from unemployment income and extends that insurance for a year.

The GOP plan would pan out better for Georgia, too. The House Ways and Means Committee estimates the Republican plan would create 186,000 jobs in our state while the Democrat plan would yield only 113,000.

In a survey sent to 3rd District constituents in my e-newsletter (sign up at, respondents preferred the taxpayer-friendly Republican version by a 9-1 margin. I know my district is more conservative than most, but the rest of the United States is moving toward our position of more timely, targeted and fiscally responsible stimulus.

Lynn Westmoreland (R-Grantville) represents Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District.

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