April 21, 2018
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Verdict on the stimulus: a costly, ineffective failure

By Lawrence E. Lockman, Special to the BDN

It has been 18 months since our senators thrust themselves onto the national stage and gave the green light to the biggest spending and borrowing bill in American history. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe cast the decisive votes for the so-called “stimulus” legislation the Obama administration promised would jump-start the economy and keep unemployment from climbing above 8 percent. After the Senate vote, Collins lamely assured an audience in Ellsworth that the bill would “help create jobs, and address the dire economic crisis our nation faces.”

A year and a half later, the official unemployment rate hovers between 9.5 and 10 percent, but the real rate is between 15 and 20 percent if you count unemployed workers who have given up looking for work. Over 3.3 million jobs have been lost since the stimulus passed, the employment market has been stagnant since the beginning of the year, and nearly 15 million Americans are currently out of work.

Yet our senators persist in their role as irresponsible enablers, repeatedly casting decisive votes to rubber-stamp the most destructive policies of the failed Obama administration. Collins and Snowe have thumbed their noses at their constituents by voting for more public-sector bailouts, more deficit spending and more crushing debt piled on our children and grandchildren.

The nearly $900 billion of federal spending in the stimulus bill included billions for government programs that have nothing to do with creating or saving jobs. The massive pork pie spent $83 billion on earned income credit for people who don’t pay federal income taxes, $81 billion for Medicaid, $36 billion for unemployment benefits and $20 billion for food stamps. And let’s not forget $650 million in “emergency spending” for the digital TV converter-box coupon program.

These unprecedented expenditures of borrowed money did not put laid-off Americans back to work.

The legislation was nothing but a grab bag of payoffs to special-interest groups that supported the Obama campaign. We now know that the stimulus spent far more on welfare programs than on highway and bridge projects. In a brazen stroke of ruling-class arrogance, legislative rules were suspended so that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid could write the bill behind closed doors, without a single public hearing.

Collins and Snowe agreed to disenfranchise their own constituents by locking them out of the legislative process, so the backroom deals and political payoffs could proceed without interference from pesky taxpayers. Despite opposition expressed in a tidal wave of phone calls and e-mails from the people of Maine, our senators chose to go with the flow inside the Beltway, and saddle future generations with the bill for their spending orgy.

While their record of betrayal has won them high praise for “political courage” in the media, Maine people understand that bending to the partisan will of Harry Reid is a sign of weakness, not courage. Collins and Snowe are an embarrassment to the state, and the sooner they can be retired the better off we will all be.

Unfortunately, neither of our senators is on the ballot this year, so disgusted voters will have to wait a few more years for the satisfaction of voting them out of office.

But we will have the opportunity in November to retire another career politician who has become an embarrassment to Maine. Mike Michaud’s record of rubber-stamping Nancy Pelosi’s partisan agenda of borrowing, spending and bailouts is diametrically opposed to the best interests of the people he represents.

Vote this year as if your children’s and grandchildren’s well-being depends on the outcome. It surely does.

Lawrence E. Lockman of Amherst is a self-employed legislative research analyst. His e-mail address is larrylockman@rivah.net.

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