05 February 2009

List of things not to cut from the stimulus

$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $14 million for cyber security research by the Homeland Security Department, $1 billion for the National Science Foundation, $400 million for research and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, $850 million for Amtrak and $400 million for climate change research.
Unfortunately, these are exactly the changes being pushed by "two centrist senators" this afternoon.

Maybe they should show up to the vote wearing "I'm with stupid" t-shirts.

I'm not signing up for post-, bi- or anti- partisanship if this is what it's supposed to mean.

Update: More here.


Neil said...

I don't think the debate is about whether those provisions are worthwhile, as such -- the question is whether they should be rushed through Congress as part of a short-term fiscal stimulus package. Why is funding for climate change research, STD research, and the NSF so urgent that it can't be done as part of the usual appropriations process?

Aldous said...


Thanks for making me defend a reflexive outburst of anger.

I think it boils down to exactly how you frame your comment: that the sentiment behind opposition to the stimulus items in question is suspicion as to whether they are going to be "stimulating," and not whether they are more generally meritorious.

I happen to think that at least the items listed in that article are pretty uncontroversially meritorious. But I'm fiercely partisan - not as a Democrat but as a supporter of things like the NEA, the NSF, research on STDs, railway expansion, and so on. And frankly I don't care who pays for it, the private or public sector, or so on. We're well beyond that kind of ideological posturing. We're well beyond pretending that we live or can live in a free market society. September-October showed us that it was turtles all the way down.

So, we're left with a semantic debate over what counts as "stimulus" and what doesn't, a debate which to me is beside the point. Is it a good program? If Congress was actually going to have that debate I would be fine with this sort of delay. Instead, the debate features senators hurling unhelpful pejoratives ("pork-barreling"). Not that the Democrats are angels, but currently they have the good fortune on being the right side of history and public opinion. The Republicans don't like that situation, and that's why they're fighting so hard to cast this in as negative a light as possible. They have nothing to lose (the old adage about wrestling with a pig...)

Finally, it's not clear to me that even research money isn't stimulative. We're in this recession for a fairly long haul. There are lots of projects to fund, equipment to purchase, and, yes, grad students and fellows to pay. If the Republicans were offering a more attractive alternative, it would be another story. Their alternative is less spending all around and more tax cuts. There are some economists who agree with the former; there are few (none that I know of) who agree with the latter.

Aldous said...

Well, it seems they made enough cuts to make enough people happy. And, of course, the next thing will be spinning who won.

(Spinning, spinning, while Rome burns...)