Friday, February 13, 2009

About that anti-freedom stimulus bill

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama took to the primetime airwaves in what amounted to a hard sell on his singularly expansive ‘stimulus’ package. His problem? Americans aren’t buying.

In fact, the more the American people learn about this $1.3 trillion boondoggle masquerading as our economy’s last, best hope, the less they like it. And with good reason.

First, the underlying principle of the president’s package is flawed. Referring to the recent upswing in job losses that have led to a reduction in consumer spending, the president stated—and not for the first time—“it is only government that can break [this] vicious cycle.”

The idea that government, and government alone, possessed the ability to solve a problem facing this nation—no matter how immense—would be as foreign as it would be distressing to those responsible for America’s founding.

It is simply contradictory to the ideals of liberty and individual empowerment that have been essential to this nation’s historic rise to greatness. Wiser men than we have commented that the government solution to a problem is often worse than the problem itself, and in this bill, those men would be again vindicated.

Second, on Monday night, the president attempted to rally support for his package on moral grounds, arguing that this generation of American leadership must pass the stimulus “for the future of our children and our grandchildren.”

While his moral compass is well-directed—the cost our actions will bear on the lives of those who follow must surely be at the forefront of our minds—his actions are distressingly misguided.

The Obama stimulus is based on the faulty premise that the money government spends is essentially found money, that it doesn't cost anyone anything, that it's the monetary equivalent of a victimless crime.

The truth is there is no such thing. Each and every one of the $800 billion in taxpayer dollars that Mr. Obama wants to inject into the economy has to come from somewhere, and in this case, we are laying the bill at the feet of those very children and grandchildren whose future the President says he’s committed to protecting.

And we share the belief that mortgaging the economic future of successive generations of Americans in order to buy ourselves some short-term job relief is not only bad policy, it’s an abdication of our responsibility. A moral argument is certainly in play here—Obama just happens to be on the wrong side of it.

Third, despite the president’s protestations, this package is littered with projects and programs that have nothing to do with simulating the economy. The left-leaning Committee for a Responsible Budget last week identified a number of programs in the stimulus bill that fall into this category. And we most assuredly have our own list.

Should the stimulus bill really include changes to the mid-90’s reform of our welfare program, a reform that moved millions of Americans from welfare-to-work? Certainly not when those changes will undermine the work requirements that have been the lynchpin of the program’s success and lead to, according to a recent column in The Wall Street Journal, “The Return of Welfare As We Knew It.”

And why does a domestic stimulus bill contain more than $180 million in funding for diplomatic and consular operations that are most likely taking place on the other side of the globe?

The president spent a great deal of time during his remarks creating a false dichotomy, implying that the choice facing Congress was either do nothing at all or accept his colossal plan as is, and accept it now.

But those are surely not the only options available. The Federal government is poised to implement the largest and most intrusive ‘stimulus’ package in our nation’s history.

Members of Congress should not allow themselves to be browbeaten into submitting to a package the consequences of which will reverberate for decades to come.

By Sen. Jim DeMint and Gov. Mark Sanford, OpEd Contributors

Jim DeMint and Mark Sanford are, respectively, the junior senator from South Carolina and governor of the Palmetto state.