Roman Around

combating liberalism and other childish notions

WHEN BIDEN SPEAKS, FACT CHECKERS SCRAMBLE

Posted by Andrew Roman on September 4, 2009

Our Vice President

Our Vice President

In terms of the news cycle, there is very little I look forward to as much as hearing anything the Vice President of the United States has to say. Call it a guilty pleasure – or a grievous mental defect – but knowing Joe Biden has spoken publicly somewhere – and that there could very well be sound bites from his visit – is a source of great excitement for me. It’s reminiscent of those anticipatory tinglings I would get as boy knowing a new album by a favorite musical group was about to be released, or a new movie was set to hit the theaters. When “Crazy Uncle Joe” opens his mouth, I am not only assured of having something to write about on the blog, I know that the bulk of what he says will be based on everything other than reality.

That’s what makes it so much fun.

Take Biden’s harebrained, la-la-land assertion that the Obama $787 billion stimulus bill passed in February is proving to be a success. Next to Elvis sightings and the Sports Illustrated prediction that the New York Mets would win the World Series this year, it’s hard to pinpoint anything more epically mythical.

He’s so adorable when he’s just being Joe, isn’t he?

Ben Feller of the Associated Press writes:

Defending a costly plan to revitalize the economy, Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday said the government’s sweeping stimulus effort “is in fact working” despite steady Republican criticism and public skepticism.

“The recovery act has played a significant role in changing the trajectory of our economy, and changing the conversation in this country,” Biden said. “Instead of talking about the beginning of a depression, we are talking about the end of a recession.”

Nearly 200 days into the effort, Biden delivered an upbeat report card about the $787 billion rescue effort that President Barack Obama pushed through Congress. He quoted estimates by private analysts that the plan has created or saved 500,000 to 750,000 jobs so far. But many million people remain out of work.

The effectiveness of the two-year program is a matter of sharp political debate, and Biden sought to counter critics with a listing of tangible results.

Of course, Joe is a little light on some of the actualities of the spendulous recovery farce, but that never kept him from filling his pie hole with one or more of his own feet.

As of Monday, a little less than 15% of the stimulus bill has been spent – a total of about $85 billion. And the vast majority of it, up to this point, has not been spent on anything remotely stimulating.

Recall how the bill was sold to the American people back in February – as being the necessary life preserver for a nation on the brink of financial ruin. It was the only way to save the United States from destruction – and it had to be done quicker than immediately. There was no time to waste. America’s very existence depended on it.

Seven months later, with some economic indicators suggesting the recession may be slowing (stabilizing housing prices, a vibrant stock market, etc.), in a nation that was only a few short months ago flirting with elimination, the question is … how much has actually been spent on bona fide “stimulus?”

Arkady Kamenetsky (of the great Indy Mind blog), writing at the Examiner.com website breaks it down:

Let us examine some of the major recipients of taxpayer moneys for brevity we will examine those departments receiving more than 20% of allocated funds.

Railroad Retirement Board: Small chunk of change and unclear where the funds are going.

Social Security Administration: 13 billion spent upgrading computers and one time payments. Not stimulating as there is no direct impact to job creation.

Veterans Affairs: .5 billion spent on upgrading facilities, payments, state grants and benefits to veterans. While not stimulating, entirely justifiable given the neglected veterans in this country.

Department of Labor: 18 billion spent on providing education and worker training to workers and “easing the burden of the recession” by assisting and expanding access to health care. Not stimulating, no direct impact on job creation or tax benefits. Providing education to workers is not the responsibility of the federal government and easing the burden of the recession can create a dangerous precedent of reliance.

Department of Justice: 1 billion spent on providing training, equipment and support for crime prevention including the hiring of additional police offers. Stimulating as it provides jobs to those seeking employment as police officers, however police are the responsibility of municipal governments. In other words we here in Boston should be not be paying for cops in Wichita, Kansas.

Health and Human Services: 28 billion spent on upgrading hospital’s IT programs, research and state grants, Medicare payouts. The biggest recipient of taxpayer moneys has also the most vague and hard to navigate web-page, giving no clear answer as to what the money is being spent on. According to the information there, it appears that the money is being used to advance Obama’s theory regarding electronic record keeping and the health industry. Whether or not upgrading our hospitals will impact us beneficially is to be determined, but this appears to be non stimulating spending and egregious spending at that.

It is also worth mentioning the Department of Education which has spent 14 Billion on state grants, school modernization, Pell grant funding and possibly preserving education jobs in states where funding is critical. Largely not stimulating as most of the money is being used on things that simply have no impact on our economy what so ever and do not belong in a federal stimulus package.

Arkady also points out that in February the Congressional Budget Office predicted a slow down of the recession by the end of this year without the benefit of any messianic intervention. And while there is obviously no way of knowing how accurate that prediction would have been, free market economies are funny things. They’re cyclical – not unlike the climate. They have a strange way a straightening – or correcting – themselves with minimal government meddling. (See the Recession of 1921). Because panic (like the one that swept across this country last fall) often spawns the dreaded and quick-to-metastasize “do something” disease – even among conservatives – governments tend to grow, liberties tend to erode, and problems tend to be prolonged (See the Great Depression).

Commenting on Biden’s remarks that the “wasteful spending” dog didn’t bite, Christopher Flavelle and Amanda Michel at ProPublica write:

wasteful spendingThe government did allocate millions of stimulus dollars for tiger and lion cages at the National Zoo, as we reported in May. And the Florida Department of Transportation got $3.4 million to build tunnels for migrating turtles—a project praised by local residents but held up by Republicans as just the kind of wasteful-spending story the vice president wanted to avoid.

In July, we reported that more than $100 million in stimulus dollars were being spent on airports with fewer than one flight an hour, while many of the country’s busiest airports were getting nothing at all. Last month, the watchdog for the Department of Transportation did indeed bite, calling for a full audit of stimulus airport grants.

Last week, The Associated Press reported that some of the country’s busiest border checkpoints were getting no stimulus money while small checkpoints had been allocated millions of dollars. Among the checkpoints getting money – $199 million, or five times more than any other station – is one at Nogales, Ariz., the home state of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the AP said.

And regarding Biden’s assertion that the spendulous money was to “bring relief to those hardest hit by the recession,” Flavelle and Michel write:

As ProPublica reported last month, a county-by-county breakdown of contracts, grants and loans showed no relationship between where the stimulus money is going and either unemployment or poverty.

The stimulus bill specifically calls for infrastructure funds to be directed at “economically distressed areas.” So far, at least, the numbers suggest that isn’t happening. States with higher unemployment are also spending and completing transportation projects more slowly, according to a stimulus spot check conducted by the ProPublica Reporting Network.

Imagine that.

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