Stimulus Op-Ed

Christine Todd Whitman
The Record
February 25, 2009

When I think about the stimulus plan President Obama recently signed into law, I cannot help but recognize the missed opportunities associated with this legislative behemoth. Missed opportunities were certain to arise, of course, after the 1,079 page bill was made public only the night before the final vote. As House Minority Leader John Boehner pointed out, not a single member of Congress had read the bill prior to voting on it. And while this may be a more common practice than we should be comfortable with, it may help to explain some of the inconsistencies within the bill. There is no question that government dollars needed to be spent – monetary policy has brought us only so far, and now is the appropriate time for fiscal policy to take a turn. Sadly, I fear that Congress and President Obama have missed their opportunity to make that turn count, and in the end all this package will have given us is a higher national debt.

From the start, this should have been a bill about jobs and only jobs. The brightest economic minds should have put their thoughts to paper on what will stimulate the economy most effectively and most swiftly – and we should have acted on that alone. Indiscriminate spending had no place in the bill – whether it was for contraception or honey bee insurance. We remember too well the tax cuts for wooden arrow manufacturers that were originally included in last fall’s bailout, and the now-infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.” These unharmonious pork barrel projects have come to symbolize the selfishness of members of Congress, exposing them for thinking about themselves and their popularity first and the country second.

I do not disagree that enhanced funding for things like contraception and hybrid cars for congressional staff are issues that we as a nation should examine and possibly support. But the American people deserve for those types of projects to have their own public debate, rather than making them an albatross on one of the more important pieces of legislation in recent memory. As a result of the confluence of these multiple issues, many representatives felt they no choice but to support it because of the hidden issues that could hamstring them in the future.

Much of this could have been avoided had the Obama Administration not exported the task of writing this major legislation to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. It is no wonder that so much of the spending included in the bill will take place in 2010 when members of Congress are up for re-election.

The failures in this case cannot all be placed on the Democratic Party despite their total control of the legislative and executive branches of our federal government. Republicans missed a tremendous opportunity to put forth a clean bill with tax cuts that could stimulate spending – the medicine of recovery – immediately.

What is perhaps most disappointing about this bill is the degree to which it plunges our country into greater debt. For every new dollar we borrow, we add to the immense financial burden already resting on our children and put our nation at greater risk of foreign competitors. President Obama said in his inaugural address that, “Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices.” The stimulus bill did not make any hard choices – it simply forced our children to address the problems that we lacked the courage to substantively address. Although for the sake of our country’s health and prosperity I want very much for the Obama Administration to succeed, with this stimulus package it has fallen far short.