President Obama calls for $50 Billion in infrastructure spending, and John Boehner is against it:

“If we’ve learned anything from the past 18 months, it’s that we can’t spend our way to prosperity,” Boehner said. “We don’t need more government ‘stimulus’ spending – we need to end Washington Democrats’ out-of-control spending spree, stop their tax hikes, and create jobs by eliminating the job-killing uncertainty that is hampering our small businesses.”

Steve Benen is predictably upset — well, he is the (Democratic) Party Animal:

Indeed, [Boehner]’s already shown some inkling of thought on the subject — a year ago, when the stimulus boosted construction projects in Ohio, Boehner said the money was responsible for creating “much-needed jobs.”

Is it really so hard for him to comprehend the notion of creating a lot more “much-needed jobs”?

Kathy Kattenburg at the Moderate(ly Marxist) Voice quotes Stevie with approval, and snarks

Everyone knows that cutting off people’s unemployment checks, repealing health care reform, and cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans (so as to be absolutely certain that that extra cash will go into savings accounts and not be spent, because spending is the LAST thing you want folks to do in a deep recession) is the best way to help those 15 million jobless Americans and 45-50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance.

No, Kathy dear, you miss the point — even when you made it, in a line I didn’t quote.

Let’s boil it down to a few words, shall we?

1) WE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY.

Our beloved Government has now got us over $1 Trillion-with-a-trrrrilll in debt. It is now at the point where just the debt service is a hugely significant “line item” that crowds out other, more desirable expenditures. There is no money for anything new, and scarcely any for present obligations, and adding further to the debt will make things worse, rather than better.

2) IT WON’T MAKE ANY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE.

There is no way to get “infrastructure” projects on-line in time to make any difference. The ones that are “shovel-ready” are not, in almost all cases, being deferred at all, much less being deferred out of budgetary considerations. The most that could be done with that $50 Billion is to substitute Federal payments for State and local ones, and that doesn’t introduce any new expenditures at all — the fact that the money comes from one pocket instead of another doesn’t change the amount being spent.

Projects which are being deferred are, for the most part, not being deferred because the State and local authorities don’t have the money. They’re being deferred for reasons ranging from environmental considerations to arguments over Union jurisdictions, and because those who hope to build haven’t submitted all the paperwork and gotten it approved. This brings us to

3) THE PROBLEM ISN’T MONEY.

Bankers and investors are sitting on truly gigantic piles of money that isn’t doing anything, and Kathy has the right of it — any new money that doesn’t get tossed down the toilet of Chicago-style politics will, in fact, “go into savings accounts and not be spent”, adding to the stack of cash that’s already idle. The layabout loot is plenty to support bond issues for rational infrastructure projects, and to support capital investment that would put people back to work in large numbers, but it’s just sitting there. Nowadays our money is mostly electronic, so you can’t just send the National Guard to seize Scrooge McDuck’s money bin (and don’t you wish that weren’t so, eh?) but it’s just as idle as if Huey, Dewey, and Louie were doing the backstroke in it. The economy doesn’t need more money. There’s plenty of money waiting in the wings.

So why is all that money waiting instead of moving?

Lots of people have diagnosed “uncertainty”. That’s certainly a consideration. I know you liars love to heap calumnies upon the heads of people who, according to you, don’t want to “help those 15 million jobless Americans and 45-50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance” (whether they exist or not), but that’s a strawman that has nothing to do with opposition to the “health care” bill, which is 2000+ pages more properly titled “The Hidden Taxation and Bureaucracy Extension and Enabling Act of 2010”. I don’t know what’s in it, you don’t know what’s in it, and the people who wrote it don’t know what’s in it — but what we do know is that there are thousands of bureaucrats beavering away at turning all the obscure one-line amendments of other laws into enabling regulations, and nobody knows what those are going to be, and nobody is willing to leap into the pool until they have some idea what the shark population is going to be like. Having Harry and Nancy announce big plans for after the elections, in what might better be termed a “loose cannon” session than a “lame duck” one, is also spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt that tends to make mattresses much more attractive than “the market” for people’s funds.

But the real problem is certainty.

We’re all damned certain the new regulations are going to mean filling out more paperwork, paying more taxes, and waiting for more inspectors to drop by when they get around to it — mostly to deny applications, because that’s the default for any bureaucrat, and spending money on plans, environmental impact statements, and piles of paperwork only to have the application denied by the deputy assistant to the assistant secretary to the deputy administrator for Infrastructure (County Roads & Park Trails, Gravel Quality Subdivision) is damned frustrating, and expensive.

And we’re all certain, because you’ve screamed it from the housetops, that you are damned determined to get the money. As soon as it moves you’re going to leap on it like lions on a sick calf, devouring it down to the bones with unctuously self-serving growls of “greedy”, “selfish”, and “eeevul capitalists”, along with unctuous invocations  of “debt reduction” and “responsible budgeting”. At the moment you don’t have any legalistic justifications for seizing idle cash, so the cash stays idle instead of moving out into the open where you can get to it. Of course, as we’ve seen, anything can happen on Christmas Eve if the Congressional leadership is determined enough, so some of that money is disappearing offshore and into things you can’t seize (yet). Turn Harry and Nancy loose after the elections, and more of it’s likely to go that way.

Compared to the funds that are already idle, $50 Billion is peanuts, and will just disappear into the Money Bin. So will the $100 Billion “R&D Tax Credit”, which is mostly spent on boondoggles anyway. Anything else you think up that Dr. Krugman might approve will go the same way. Stimulus won’t work, because lack of money isn’t the problem, guys.

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