Big Government Is Back In Vogue

The debate between liberals and conservatives on President Barack Obama’s so-called stimulus package boils down to a classic right-left argument between those who yearn for big government and those who believe that big government isn’t the solution — it’s the problem.

Conservatives have proposed alternatives to the Obama spendathon, yet the president claims that conservatives have no prescription to stimulate the economy. A closer look at three separate plans suggests otherwise.

The McCain Plan

Even though conservatives are skeptical of Sen. John McCain on many issues, we can admire his dogged fight against Obama’s massive spending bill and the appropriators in Congress. During the stimulus debate, McCain mentioned “$150 million for honey bee insurance,” adding: “This is a Christmas tree done by appropriators, and we proved when we tried to eliminate the earmarks that there are three kinds of senators in the Senate: Republicans, Democrats and appropriators.” He’s absolutely right. This bill was written by appropriators who think that honey bee insurance qualifies as stimulus.

McCain’s own plan had several specific features: changes to the home-loan modification program, tax credits for home purchases, monies for rehabilitating military facilities and equipment, resources for roads and bridges, robust oversight and a payroll-tax holiday for one year. It also would have cut the two lowest tax brackets by 5%, lowered the corporate tax rate by 10% for small businesses and accelerated depreciation for capital investments for small businesses.

This alternative to the Obama plan would have cost $421 billion. The McCain amendment was defeated on a budget point of order by a party-line 40-57 vote. The Amendment is Exhibit A in the case against Obama’s assertion that his opponents wanted to do “nothing.”

The Vitter Plan

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) submitted an amendment eliminating numerous wasteful spending projects in the bill, saving about $48 billion. The Vitter amendment would have eliminated $30.4 in direct spending. It struck the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions that make infrastructure projects more expensive.

Specifically targeted for removal were provisions that funded fish-barrier projects, $1 billion to fund the census, $600 million for the federal government to buy “fuel efficient” vehicles, $400 million for construction of an FBI facility, $34 million for management bureaucrats at the Department of Commerce, $75 million for a State Department training facility, $55 million for a National Parks Service “Historic Preservation Fund” and $125 million for the D.C. sewer system.

But the Vitter amendment itself went down the sewer on a 32-65 vote, with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) all voting to keep these wasteful programs afloat. Vitter argued that the stimulus was bloated and his amendment would have been an act of good faith on the part of senators to prove that they had the will to remove waste. Let’s call this Exhibit B that senators were proposing real changes to the bill and not advocating “nothing.”

The Thune Plan

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) had his own alternative. It contained a reduction in corporate tax rates and individual tax rates, a repeal of the alternative minimum tax, estate tax relief, an increase in the child tax credit and some restrictions on deductions to provide a broader tax base. It was rejected, 37-60, with Sens. Collins, Snowe and Voinovich voting against the plan.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) also had a plan that was voted down — one that would have provided tax cuts and smaller government.

These are only a few of the amendments offered to cut waste and provide real economic stimulus. President Obama has no grounds to claim that his opponents didn’t provide viable alternatives to this massive special-interest, written-behind-closed–doors, wasteful-spending, non-stimulative pork-o-rama boondoggle.

Conservative Jeers

Loud conservative jeers for Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter for cutting a deal with the Obama administration to allow a compromise version of the so-called stimulus plan, the Nelson-Collins Amendment, to pass the Senate. Although these senators complained that they couldn’t vote for a package as large as the Pelosi plan that passed the House at a cost of $819 billion, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the compromise plan that passed the Senate would cost the taxpayers $838 billion.