The Stimulus Bill: Look for the Union Label

The Stimulus Bill: Look for the Union Label

By Floyd and Mary Beth Brown | 1/30/2009

In sports they call it a misdirect; magicians and illusionists will slip a card into the deck while they distract you elsewhere. What President Obama is doing with the 647-page, $825 billion so-called “stimulus package” legislation is closest to the tried-and-true tactics of a team of pick-pockets. One grabs your attention by yelling about some emergency problem, while the other slips his hand in for your wallet. Before knowing it, you have been robbed blind.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in November described their tactic this way: “Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before.” And have they ever!

While President Obama is at the White House spreading fear with dire predictions of an impending economic collapse, fellow Democrats in Congress are having a heyday slipping their favorite, pet projects into the massive pork bill. It’s no wonder the “package” is 647 pages long when you look at what’s included. The Wall Street Journal did an in-depth study of the legislation and concluded, “this bill was written based on the wish list of every living — or dead — Democratic interest group.” Not only that, the vast majority of the bill will do nothing to help the economy.

The big winners are the unions to which Obama is beholden. Obama’s background as a union organizer is fostering unhealthy ties to these special interest groups. Unions who organized and contributed to his campaign are raking it back in many times over. Education gets a whopping $66 billion — this is after President Bush doubled the Department of Education’s budget while in office. But don’t be misled. The bill is very specific, saying the money goes only to schools with union teachers. Your children are out of luck if they don’t go to a government school. Page 257 states: “No recipient…shall use such funds to provide financial assistance to students to attend private elementary or secondary schools.”

Public-employee unions, such as mass transit workers, stand to profit by $6 billion, but these poorly run systems have nothing to do with helping the economy. Also snuck into the bill is $7 billion to modernize federal buildings and facilities and $600 million for the federal government to buy new cars. This is while the rest of us are delaying remodeling our own homes and keeping our older cars running in the recession.

And how is giving $150 million to the Smithsonian going to create jobs? There is $1 billion for Amtrak, $50 million goes to the National Endowment for the Arts, $400 million for global warming — and don’t forget the necessity of digital TV conversion. They have included $650 million for more coupons to make sure everyone can see their TV. Watching TV is one of our rights, isn’t it?

A huge portion of the bill — $252 billion — goes to income-transfer payments, such as Medicaid, more unemployment benefits, food stamps and the earned income credit for people who do not pay any income taxes. This money does not fit the definition of a job producer and does not belong in this piece of legislation. It belongs in a welfare bill.

According to The Wall Street Journal, only about 12 percent of the $825 billion “can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus. And even many of these projects aren’t likely to help the economy immediately.”

Spending hundreds of billions of dollars, which the government doesn’t have, won’t jump start this economy. Less government involvement, not more, is what this country needs to resurrect itself. Sometimes the best thing to do is be patient and let the recession run its natural course. Beware of political pickpockets dressed in designer suits with government titles, because eventually they will reach into your pocket for your hard-earned money.

Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are bestselling authors and speakers. Mary Beth’s latest book is featured at Together they maintain a blog at

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