Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's Hate Got to Do With It?

Mary Eberstadt, the author of that wonderful collection of epistles from a newly-minted atheist to her much admired superiors titled The Loser Letters, addresses herself to the question how someone like her, someone who's quite averse to our modern infatuation with gayness, might respond to charges that she must be a homophobic hater.

She suggests deflecting such allegations by emulating, of all people, vegetarians. Eberstadt offers this hypothetical response to someone who has accused her of being a hater simply because she finds homosexual conduct to be not just distasteful but morally wrong:

A borrowing of the vegetarian's vocabulary might go something like this. "No, of course I don't hate sex/fun/gay people/love - any more than a vegetarian, say, hates people who eat beef/chicken/pork. In fact, let's explore that analogy a little more, because then maybe you'll understand where I'm coming from. And just as vegetarians don't hate meat-eaters, I don't hate people who do things I don't, or things that I think are wrong. But that doesn't mean that the matter ends there or that I'm saying that these things are a matter of taste only. Like the vegetarian, I think there are serious reasons for my aversion to what other people do. These reasons are moral. They also have to do with health. In general, I think it would be a better world if people didn't do these things, again as the vegetarian thinks. But please understand that hatred has nothing to do with it. Reason and information and a desire not to do harm - these things do."

This response, as correct and honest as it is clever, is offered in a larger essay in the current First Things which itself is very much worth reading. Unfortunately, this issue is available only by subscription until April.


The Unstimulus

The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, analyzes the Obama stimulus plan which Congress is voting on today and finds much not to like. In the first place, they tell us, the plan would be incredibly costly to taxpayers.

For instance, after Congress appropriates the 2009 omnibus bill, they will have spent over $1.4 trillion in less than one month. It'll be the largest spending orgy in the history of the country. If the cost of it were spread equally over every family in the U.S. each family would owe $10,520. What's worse, though, is that although the bill is touted as an "economic stimulus" bill, much of it has nothing to do with stimulating the economy and a lot to do with lining the pockets of those who supported the Democrats in the last election.

In addition to the earlier automobile bailout, which was essentially a gift to the UAW, over $142 billion dollars is slated for education, nearly double the total outlays for the Department of Education in 2007, making good on promises made by Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and candidate Obama to the NEA. Anyone who thinks that this windfall will actually result in kids learning more math and literature in school is deluding himself. Another $4.19 billion is provided for "neighborhood stabilization activities" which is code for organizations like ACORN which has been charged with widespread voter registration fraud in the last election, but which was instrumental in getting Democrats elected. The Democrats also tried to get several million dollars for birth control into the measure, which would have been a boon to Planned Parenthood, but Nancy Pelosi, apparently non-plussed by questions about exactly what it was she was trying to stimulate, decided to drop it.

In addition to these Blagojevich-like quid pro quos to Democratic constituencies there are a number of other provisions which may cause you to arch an eyebrow:

States that have squandered their own taxpayers' money and now find themselves unable to meet their medicaid obligations to their own citizens will receive from the rest of us an $87 billion dollar check to meet the shortfall. Taxpayers in Pennsylvania will be happy to know that they're paying the medicaid costs for people living in New York. The "stimulus" also gives the Department of Energy $35 billion dollars to work on such dubious projects as "green" alternative energy sources like windmills. The DOE's current annual budget is just under $24 billion. Billions more will be handed out as refundable tax credits to everyone who falls under a specified income level. This will include millions of people who never paid income taxes in the first place, which means it's not a tax refund at all, but a welfare payment, and its purpose is to buy the loyalty of a large number of voters to the Democratic party.

In addition, there are these items crucial, we are to believe, to the health of the national economy: Digital TV coupons ($650 million), government cars ($600 million), the National Endowment for the Arts ($50 million), repairs to National Mall ($200 million). This includes $21 million for sod so that on your next visit to the mall you can loll about in the grass and feel all tingly about how wisely your tax dollars are being spent by your beneficent congressional overlords.

But isn't all this spending going to create jobs, I hear you ask. Not according to House Tax Committee staff. Despite the promise by President Obama and Speaker Pelosi that three to four million new jobs will be created, the Committee has not been able to find even a single job that will be guaranteed to be created. Indeed, most of the money won't even be spent this year, so it's hard to see how this bill is a job generator.

If President Obama and the Democrats were really serious about creating jobs and getting the economy going - instead of just paying off the people who got them elected - they would simply lower as many taxes, both business and personal, as they could. This would immediately stimulate the economy by getting businesses investing and hiring and consumers spending. Unfortunately, the economic stimulus package is all about politics and power and not so much about jobs and prosperity.

Whatever happened to all that hope and change we were promised a couple of months ago?

President Obama has also promised us a transparent administration and Speaker of the House Pelosi has promised us the most ethical Congress ever. If they're serious about their rhetoric they could start to make good on their promises by declining to call this measure "economic stimulus" and calling it instead what it is: Political Payback. It's hard to see the difference between what the Democrats from Barack Obama on down are doing with this "stimulus" bill and what Rod Blagojevich got himself impeached for in Illinois.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has an excellent editorial on the spending bill in which they calculate that only 12 cents of every dollar can be reasonably expected to go to stimulus and job creation. Much of it is just welfare payments to the poor.