I think it’s time we applied the same advertising standards to Washington’s legislative products that the feds apply to breakfast foods. The Food and Drug Administration rapped General Mills this week for making misleading claims about the benefits of Cheerios. The food manufacturer says the whole-grain O’s are "clinically proven to lower cholesterol." The FDA demanded packaging changes to ensure truth in labeling.
Well, how about the bogus marketing of the fiscal "stimulus"? President Obama and the Democrats promoted the trillion-dollar package as job creation salvation. The White House claims 150,000 jobs have been "created or saved." But since February, the nation has lost more than 1.3 million jobs. The current 8.9 percent unemployment rate in the wake of the stimulus passage is worse than the 8.8 percent unemployment Obama’s economists darkly predicted if Congress didn’t immediately adopt their recovery plan.
The "stimulus" was supposed to provide aid to the country’s neediest areas. It’s not. The Associated Press reported after reviewing 5,500 planned transportation projects that "states are planning to spend 50 percent more per person in areas with the lowest unemployment than in communities with the highest."
Obama promised that Americans would be able to track "every dime" of the "stimulus" at one handy clearinghouse website. They won’t. The Recovery.gov site data won’t be fully available until next spring — halfway through the program.
Washington told us the "stimulus" projects were "shovel-ready" and would provide immediate relief. They’re not. The New York Times notes that the program "has paid out less than 6 percent of the money, largely in the form of social service payments to states."
Democratic leaders boldly claimed that "there are no earmarks" in the bill. But untold tens of millions of dollars are headed to pet projects such as skateboard parks, tennis and basketball court renovation, the National Zoo, the $11 million Bridge to Microsoft, and Pennsylvania King of Pork Rep. John Murtha’s ghost airport to nowhere.
More falsely labeled products in the Capitol Hill pantry: How about the "Toxic Assets Relief Program"? The trillion-dollar-plus banking bailout morphed from a toxic assets purchase plan to a capital injection plan, back to a toxic assets purchase plan, to a life insurance company bailout, to an auto supplier bailout, and may now be used to bail out the state of California. Supporters of that maneuver argue that TARP should be extended to every cash-strapped state and local government to guarantee their debts against default.
How about "Social Security"? There’s nothing secure about it. While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scoffed during the Bush years that "the so-called Social Security crisis exists in only one place — the minds of the Republicans," the insolvency problem festered. Now, the Obama administration reports that both Social (In)security and Medicare are hurtling toward bankruptcy far sooner than previously estimated. The "trust funds" exist only in the minds of the deluded.
And just this week, Congress collaborated with the White House to conjure up a misleading description of Obama’s $108 billion bailout of the International Monetary Fund. They’re advertising the expenditure as a "line of credit" with the "hope to get the money back," according to the Wall Street Journal. "So the White House argued that the budgetary impact should be calculated at zero." That’s right. Capitol Hill is officially claiming that $108 billion = zero.
If Beltway spending plans were breakfast cereals, they’d be yanked from grocery stores in a heartbeat. Their promises and premises are as full of holes as a box of persecuted Cheerios.