Will Obama Follow the Money?

Yes, it seems that we’re about to spend gazillions of dollars on a stimulus package that (of course)  nobody can guarantee will work. Looking at the uncertain lessons of history, financial gurus inside Obama’s own administration disagree as to whether FDR’s big spending helped speed the end of the Depression, or whether panicky European investment and the coming of World War II really shocked the patient back to life.

It goes without saying (sorry, Obama-struck newbies) that a good deal of the stimulus money will be wasted–see syllogism below*– and we’ll spend decades arguing about whether it worked and how much it helped, like the CEO in the old joke who knew that half his advertising budget was wasted, but couldn’t figure out which half.

The half (or third, or fourth) that’s not wasted, however, will do some good, will create some jobs, will revive some blighted areas, will hasten the completion of “shovel-ready” projects that have been waiting on cash. And many of us will be in a forgiving mood as the O-Team tries to revive the economy, mindful of the dread law of ICAGWO–It Could Always Get Worse, which most experts seem to believe it would if we did nothing.

But at the same time he’s priming us for massive spending and “deficits as far as the eye can see,” Obama is sending some hopeful signals about frugality. Two straws in the wind:

1. In  the Inaugural Address, he stated bluntly that if government programs are found to be inefficient and wasteful, “programs will end.” (See syllogism again.*) Bravo. The best thing he could do while the Big Stim is rolling out? Get with his CPO (see next)  once a month, identify a few million bucks being blown on outmoded programs from the 1930’s, and give them the axe.

If the O Man could somehow develop a schizoid image as a Big- Spending Tightwad, that in itself might secure a second term. As with our own personal budgets, it’s not just the total spent that matters. It’s what that spending gets us, and how little of it we waste.

2.   He hired a Chief Performance Officer, a post that, unbelievably, never existed before. Her job is to  “scour the federal budget to eliminate what doesn’t work and improve what does to “put government on the side of taxpayers.”  She could begin by tossing darts at the behemoth budget and hacking away where they land.  This is revolutionary stuff, folks. What’s next? An end to farm subsidies for well-off  media types who live in Manhattan?  More on the CPO   here .


 *All government programs waste some money.

The Obama Stimulus is a government program.

Therefore, the OS will waste money.

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