Can We Push Some Of The Stimulus To Cover Economic Education?

from the that-would-be-grand dept

While I don't necessarily agree with everything that Steven Pearlstein says in his latest column, I do have to second the request that if we're going to dump so many hundreds of billions into a "stimulus" plan, could we also spend some money on educating our members of Congress on basic economics? Pearlstein's idea is to put another $53.5 million (or $100,000 per elected Congressional Representative or Senator) to allow them to hire an economics "personal trainer." I'd actually like to take that argument further, and see if there might be some way to educate the wider population on economics a bit more -- so that we'd avoid silly self-damaging proposals like adding "buy American" requirements.

Separately, I'd like to point to the open letter written to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which asks them to publish whatever stimulus bill is finally agreed to for five full days to allow for public comment. This matches up with Obama's earlier promise (which he has unfortunately failed to live up to) to let the public comment on any legislation for five days before passing it. So much of the action on the stimulus bill has been done behind closed doors, involving various horse trading deals that it seems only fair. We saw with the TARP "rescue" package that the more Congress talked, the more pork was included -- and the early results from that all-too-rapid taxpayer cash dump hasn't been good at all. If the new administration is really committed to transparency, it seems only reasonable to let the public read and provide feedback on the stimulus. Related to this, another excellent source to follow is StimulusWatch.org.

This doesn't mean that the gov't should change the stimulus plan based on exactly what the "most" people want (a recipe for a disaster), but let's let some smart ideas start to bubble up by trusting that when more people are allowed to push ideas forward, some good ideas will come out of the mix. Limiting the discussion to just those inside the Beltway has proven to be a huge disaster for quite some time. Let's get more people involved -- recognizing that there will be plenty of terrible ideas -- but as a way to let some good out-of-the-box thinking emerge.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Esteban El Guapo, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 1:58am

    The Two True Lessons of Economics

    Are _The Emperor's New Clothes_ and _Stone Soup_. Education is inimical to the smooth functioning of an economy based on a fiat currency.

     

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  2.  
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    David Chartier, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 4:15am

    You missed a critical adjective

    Go back and read the original White House blog post. President Obama promised to post any "non-emergency" legislation for public review, not just any legislation. Massive difference, especially since this stimulus has been dubbed as an emergency from the beginning.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 5:32am

    The whole stimulus package reeks with classical black operations funding procedure. Make a lot of racket about something irrelevant while quietly redirecting the funds into some other activity.

    That also goes along with several other issues.

    First public knowledge exists as to where the source (London and Adu Dhabi) of the funds came from in the short selling that forced the stock market down back in Nov 2008 but no presentation was ever publically made of whose funds they were. Or the nationality of the owners of the funds.

    If one thinks of investment banks as the financial equivalent of a gasoline storage farm then one can see why the source of the shorting is important. A gas storage farm is a necessary means of storage of petroleum for disbursement to the cars and trucks that drive the economy. They are dangerous places, not as dangerous as many industrial process , but dangerous never the less. They can explode for a variety of reasons – lighting (natural phenomena), accidents, and sabotage. If basic maintenance is not performed and gas is allowed to flow freely on the ground around the storage tanks the tanks will not explode BUT it sure makes for a dangerous situation in which an explosion is likely. Making an explosion likely even when unknown to plant workers does not change the fact that there are only three possible sources of ignition, natural, carelessness, and sabotage.

    All the discussions, all the reports, publically available have focused on the lack of maintenance and what it will take to rebuild the tank farm after the fire.

    What has not been disclosed is what the source of the fire was. Was it some natural act that came about by a combination of forces that produced the spark? Not likely as there is just no financial equivalent to lightning. Was it that some one mucked up and set the events rolling by accident? Highly probable. Just like some idiot may light a cigarette and through it where the tank fir can start. Highly probable. Or was it that a certain set of people with a high degree of financial specialization took the system down on purpose? If so why?

    This whole things stinks of a cover up. But, what is being covered up? Incompetence? Stupidity? Or deliberate sabotage?

    I do not know about you people but until I can ascertain what the issue is and what the source of the problem is I can not determine what the realm of potential solutions are. Which brings us back to black operations. How do you stage a cover up of something that is to big to be covered up. Simple you expose it, let every body view it and then with a slight of a magician hand reroute people attention else where. This is exactly what a classical magician does in a magic show.

    All the begets the question “What the hell is really going on”?

     

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  4.  
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    hegemon13, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 6:15am

    Who's doing the teaching?

    My problem with spending money to "educate" Congress is that we don't know who will be doing the teaching. Given Obama's track record of appointing entertainment industry shills to government right and left, I have no faith that the "educators" would be unbiased or even remotely on track with reality. Let the wrong people "teach" Congress about economics, and the problem gets a LOT worse instead of better.

     

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    johnjac (profile), Feb 9th, 2009 @ 6:17am

    1 case where it makes since to have 'buy American' requirements

    It makes since to have a 'buy American' requirement when you KNOW that the project will have no economic stimulus effect after it is bought/built. If this is the case then the 'project' is really just a gift to the provider, and that gift might as well stay in America if your ultimate goal is to stimulate the American Economy.

    This is all said tongue in cheek, of course.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Re: You missed a critical adjective

    True. "Hope" for "change" quickly became a tirade instilling fear of a false emergency that requires an immediate solution that no one would ever agree to under normal circumstances.

     

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  7.  
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    hegemon13, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 6:59am

    Re: You missed a critical adjective

    Yep, clearly that adjective is working as well for Obama as it did for Bush. All he has to do is declare an emergency, and his followers throw away all common sense, personal rights, and expectation of accountability in order to be "taken care of" and "kept safe." Same old, same old in Washington.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 7:04am

    One has to love Section 1112 to the House version, the "Governor B" clause.

    Buy American requirements re some commodities interesting.

    Prevailing wages sounds like unions are covering their "six"

    Good, no casinos, sports stadiums, zoos, aquarium are authorized.

    The above and a few other tidbits are a bit comical.

    As for the other provisions, it almost appears as if each federal agency sat down for a game of poker and played Texas Hold-em for appropriations.

    What struck me is that this bill seems little more that a significant increase in appropriated funding so that agencies can enlarge current government programs, many, if not most, of which were dubious before this act and will likely be more securely entrenched with this sizeable increase in additional funds.

    Candidly, I feel as if the House package largely reads like a federal bureaucracy bump in funding committed to agency discretion. It was difficult to see how this can truly be termed an economic stimulus plan. I did not note very many appropriations calculated to meaningfully enhance business productivity and innovation for the research, design, development and introduction into the market a wealth of consumer products.

    If one supported the social programs propounded by the Democratic Party during the recent election, this legislation seems to be a vehicle to have such programs created and funded in one fell swoop without public hearings and public debate.

    In sum, I am left with the question just what is in this package that is supposed to actually stimulate the economy? I read each page of both the House and Senate versions, and while there are differences, the legislation seems to be a Christmas wish-list by each and every federal agency.

    Of course, I am confident that our dedicated elected representatives will read and assimilate the contents of each and every one of the 700 or so pages (the House version is about 647 pages, while the Senate version is slightly more than 700). Makes me wish each of them were required to declare under penalty of perjury that the have read it, understand all of it, in good faith believe it is in the best interests of the US, and that they do not have any unpaid state, federal or local taxes.

     

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  9.  
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    AJ, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 7:09am

    Re:

    How started? It was started with the deregulation under Carter, and the widening of the rules under Clinton to allow more people to own houses. Up until Clinton, there was almost a direct correlation between property values and inflation. After Fannie became a political tool and rules of sane economics were thrown out the window, the values of homes skyrocketed breaking the centuries-old correlation. We had a huge bubble in housing prices. Bush and McCain warned in 2003 that there was a problem, tried to get congress to stop the madness. Barney Frank and Maxine Waters lead a full charge against any changes. Bubble burst. Huge problem.

    And, why is nobody calling the 'Stimulus' package what it really is? Its blatant payback to those who pushed the current administration in to power. Why would any sane person fund ACORN given their track record of rampant fraud? Payback. Politics is all about payback, both good and bad. Both sides are masters at this. I believe the only way to stop this stupidity is strict term limits. If we get rid of the professional politicians, we might have a fighting chance.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 8:01am

    Re: 1 case where it makes since to have 'buy American' requirements

    "It makes since to have a 'buy American'" only so we can finally shutdown W@lmart.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 8:11am

    Re:

    "required to declare under penalty of perjury that the have read it" I wish all issues passed by the house and senate were held to this. I guess we would have more abstentions on voting that way.

     

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  12.  
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    AJ, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re: 1 case where it makes since to have 'buy American' requirements

    What do you have against WalMart? They provide low cost products and a ton of jobs. Do you have a problem with their sourcing of product, or their pay structure, or the fact that they're good competitors?

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: Re: 1 case where it makes since to have 'buy American' requirements

    I do not like that they force producers out of the US to provide cheap goods. This takes jobs away from domestic workers and requires extra shipping to get the goods from over seas. Also the fact that in being so large they do not provide affordable health insurance. On top of that the average pay for employees is about $20,000.

     

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  14.  
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    AJ, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    Not so right on the health insurance. What's going to happen to the shippers and dock workers who unload the goods? So, Sears, Kohl's, Target don't sell goods from out-of country origin? Why Walmart? If they were so bad, no one would shop there. No one would work there. Yet, shoppers by the busload (go there on any day) shop there. Its always full. They must be providing some sort of value or service that attracts customers. The problem with signaling out WalMart is they've done their job and people don't like it for insane reasons. They just don't want to compete.

    From ask.com
    "Wal-Mart benefits including incentive/bonus plan, health insurance, profit sharing, 401(k), education, store discounts and other Walmart employment benefits. All Wal-Mart associates (full and part time) can become eligible for insurance benefits."

    AND, there has to be SOME incentive to move up, improve your education, or strive for a better life. WalMart is a good place to start, a career for some. Its RETAIL. Its not a law firm, an engineering firm, or the automotive industry. Look what the out-of-control benefits have brought in the big three car companies... $1,250 per car just to fund them, employees pay NOTHING, retirees get it free forever.

    So, I disagree. WalMart is not the biggest evil we face.

     

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  15.  
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    Randy, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 10:28am

    Politicians and Economics

    There aren't three members of Congress I would trust to change a dollar, much less be able to balance a checkbook. Bunch of elitist parasites is all they are, and every time they touch something they corrupt it and make it 10 times more expensive than before. And, where does the buck always stop? At the working man's door. I think it's about time to start up a guillotine business just outside the beltway.

     

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  16.  
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    Valkor, Feb 9th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Who's doing the teaching?

    The other problem with hiring "economic educators" is that any politician will be able to find an economist that agrees with his economic ideas. Will there be some sort of sign at the head of the job line that says "Keynesian economists need not apply"? Maybe a congressman will ask his economist how many windows he needs to break to stimulate his local glass manufacturing industry. Our representatives are good enough at only hearing what they want to hear that this charming idea could never work.

    How could we hope for this to be effective when we don't even know the most productive way to spend our money as a government? The article cited in the post almost sounded like the author didn't think that there was *any* government spending that would be worse than leaving the money in the hands of the private sector.

    That's the kind of economist that scares me.

     

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  17.  
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    Chunky Vomit, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 4:08am

    I think your comments against Obama here must mean that you are racist.

     

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  18.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 10:39am

    Stimulus and transparency

    I believe Obama is honest. I believe he meant it when he said more transparency, and advocated the five day rule.
    I also believe he honestly wants bi-partisanship. I think he is willing to compromise in an attempt to get it.
    So, how much of the failure to follow the five day rule is a "failure" on the part of Obama, and how much is the GOP refusing to compromise unless he continues the Bush policy of secrecy?
    I'd like to know - how much is really due to Obama, and how much is this due to the GOP being obstructionist?

     

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