And then, of course, life got in the way.
After spending several weeks writing catalog copy for Heritage, I found out that a book proposal I had submitted to MacFarland had been accepted. That's great news, and something I'm very excited about, but that means that most of my writing time is going to be taken up with the book (it's about monster movies, by the way). Blogging likely to be infrequent from here on in.
That being said, there are some things I'd like to get off my chest:
This stimulus bill just doesn't work for me, in spite of all the grandiose speeches and promises that are being made. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not some bitter Republican with an axe to grind, still grumbling that "my guy" didn't get elected. I support Barack Obama. I supported him in the elections, I voted for him, and I think that we, as a nation, made the right choice in putting him in office.
But I think he's succumbing to business as usual with this stimulus package of nearly $1 trillion.
He promised us a new way of approaching problems, a new paradigm for addressing the catastrophe that has engulfed our nation. And yet, when all is said and done, this so-called stimulus package is no different than virtually any other government spending bill. This bill needed to address the immediate crises that face our nation, like unemployment, rising healthcare costs, and an increasing rate of home foreclosures. And it needed to do it now.
Unfortunately, our lawmakers, led by our new President, opted to fund projects that, if they address these issues at all, will do so down the road (18-24 months, according to many analysts). That's fine if you're a Congressman, whose healthcare - along with a generous salary - are provided to you by the American people, but what if you're one of the more than 3.5 million unemployed who can't afford your mortgage payments or your diabetes medicine? You don't have 18-24 months to wait, you need something to happen now. And the number of people in situations like this is growing every day.
To be fair, many of the projects earmarked in the stimulus bill are worthwhile, and should be pursued. They include:
*$350 million for research into using renewable energy to power weapons systems and military bases;
*400 million to help state and local governments purchase efficient alternative fuel vehicles to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions;
*$500 million for energy efficient manufacturing demonstration projects;
*$6 billion for broadband and wireless service in underserved areas;
*$462 million to enable CDC to complete its Buildings and Facilities Master Plan, as well as renovations and construction needs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health;
*$50 million for monument and memorial repairs at Veteran's cemeteries;
*$400 million, including $200 million to address the deterioration of the National Mall, such as repair of the Jefferson Memorial's collapsing Tidal Basin walls; $150 million to address the repair backlog at the Smithsonian; and $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.
And that's just a small sample. Now, like I said, there's no doubt that these are all worthy projects, and in a time of strong economy and employment, I would cheer the funding of each and every one of these. But is this really where we want to be putting our money in a time of National Crisis? Imagine your house is on fire; is your first priority trimming the hedges? Of course not.
Last night, during President Obama's speech, he talked about giving more money to the banks so that they could make more credit available to people to buy houses or cars, or support small businesses. It's a laudable idea, but several months ago we gave an enormous amount of money to America's banks for exactly the same purpose, to absolutely no effect. The result was a bunch of banks hoarding our money, not giving it out in loans as was intended. Why would anyone think this handout will be used any differently?
Even worse, we're hearing just now about Northern Trust bank, the recipient of $1.6 billion of our money, throwing a massive golf tournament and party, complete with entertainment by Sheryl Crow and Earth, Wind, and Fire, expensive hotel rooms for employees and guests, Tiffany gift bags, fine dining, and more, all to the tune of millions of dollars. When pressed, a spokesman for the bank replied that the money used was the bank's money, not the bail-out funds (how does one distinguish between the two?), and said that Northern Trust was a "healthy" bank that didn't really want the government's money, but accepted it as it "agreed to the government's goal of gaining the participation of all major banks in the United States." The translation: we'll take your money and do what we damn well please with it. Merry Christmas to us. Making matters worse is the fact that Northern Trust isn't the first, nor is it likely to be the last, bank to spend our money in such a questionable way.
Knowing that, why does anyone think it's a good idea to give the banks more money? Haven't they proven that they can't be trusted to spend or invest that money wisely? Aren't these the very practices that got us into this mess in the first place? I'm not necessarily advocating the nationalization of banks, but someone has to step in and do something here. Throwing more money at them and hoping that, somehow, these greedy, arrogant bastards have grown a conscience - or at least a sense of fiscal responsibility overnight - seems incredibly short-sighted.
But this is the way government works. It's a big boy's club in which the wealthy and powerful belly up to the trough and are rewarded for being wealthy and powerful. It's Voodoo Economics, and the disastrous continuation of Ronald Reagan's "trickle down" theory. If the last several decades have proven nothing else, they've proven that money doesn't "trickle down." Give money to the people at the top, as Reagan did and as Obama is doing now, and they keep it. It's simple human greed. If you want to infuse money into the economy, you have to put money into the hands of the people, as money flows up. When they have it and times are good, people spend. And that money inevitably makes it's way up the chain, benefitting everybody on its way by. Giving money to banks and corporations and government agencies is just business as usual, a plan that is doomed to failure from the start.
I still think that, if Obama really wants to change things in a powerful and immediate way, he should take that stimulus money and put it directly in the hands of the American people. How about this: Every taxpayer who filed a 2007 return showing less than $250,000 in income gets a check for $200,000. It's simple, it's direct, and it would have an immediate effect on the economy. People could pay off their homes, but new cars, buy health insurance coverage, or whatever. They could blow it all at Wal-Mart or at Choctaw, for all I care. The point is, that money would flow back into the economy, strengthening businesses and creating jobs.
Of course, the government has tried this before, but on a much smaller scale. Let's face it, $300 isn't a significant amount to most people. That's like throwing a homeless guy a quarter and expecting him to turn his life around on that amount.
Obviously, the money exists for a plan like this if we're spending close to a billion on things like refurbishing tombstones, but it's not the way government does business. Never has, never will. The government is invested in making the American people believe that it, and it alone, can save them. Rather than putting the tools for success in the hands of actual working Americans, government has traditionally taken a controlling role. That's business as usual, and it shows no signs of changing in this new administration.
I understand that Obama is new to the office, and many will cry, "You have to give him time." That's all well and good in good times, but these are not good times, and Obama knew that when he took office. Thanks to the previous administration, there is no time. America, and many of her people, are on a collision course with ruin and disaster. Something must be done now, without all the political posturing and deal-making that has been a hallmark of our government for far too long. Rather than playing partisan politics, as far too many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been guilty of for far too long, this is a time for bold, decisive action. Rather than catering to special interests and lobbyists, which this stimulus bill obviously does, it's time to consider the welfare of the American people. Rather than feeling secure in the salaries and benefits provided to them by the taxpayers, it's time our lawmakers felt a sense of urgency about this crisis, and moved to act as if it were their homes and their families in jeopardy. Nothing else is acceptable.
I had high hopes that night that Obama was elected. I really believed that a sea change in the way our government functioned was imminent. Now I'm not so sure.