Readers Not Stimulated

One reader chimes in on the logic of the Collins-Nelson cut list

What’s most striking about this list is that, for all their carping about this hodgepodge of a bill, the Nelson-Collins group seems to have approached their cuts in an even more haphazard fashion. They’re not offering a comprehensive or coherent approach to stimulus spending. They haven’t established a fixed standard, against which they’re measuring each item. They don’t have any sense of how big the overall package needs to be in order to work. They’re just canvassing members to find out which items it’s politically feasible to remove.

Some of their cuts are sensible – programs that belong in the standard appropriations process. Some are ideological – education aid is an incredibly efficient way to avert a huge number of layoffs, but federal funding for local education is anathema to conservatives. Some are nonsensical – why slash immediate spending on transportation
infrastructure? And that’s without getting into what they’re not pressing to cut: any number of other items particularly dear to the hearts of influential senators are left alone.

It may be necessary to accept this amendment to secure enough votes for the final measure; it’s certainly not worth letting the stimulus fail over this. But Collins and Nelson shouldn’t be allowed to trumpet, with false piety, their stand against “sacred cows.” What matters most right now is averting economic disaster; the efficacy of individual programs is purely secondary. If Collins and Nelson had a shred of seriousness, they would be proposing the elimination of individual items – and then the substitution of programs they felt would stimulate the economy more efficiently. Where are the substitutes? Or, if they think the bill is bigger than necessary, they could announce a target amount and a rationale for why that lesser amount would work. Where’s the target?

This isn’t centrism. It’s not fiscal conservatism. It’s just grandstanding.