There’s only one thing worse than Republicans and Democrats locked in partisan gridlock up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. It is Republicans and Democrats rushing to come together for the good of the country and congratulating themselves for their bipartisanship.
Witness the economic stimulus package that President Bush signed into law Wednesday.
I’ve never met a tax cut I didn’t like — until now. Oh, I’ll cash my rebate check, cash it happily and without a second thought. But I’m not going to pretend that Republi-crats and Demo-cans have done anything to stimulate the American economy.
Yes, Washington’s self-congratulatory bipartisans acted with a speed not seen since Congress banned television blackouts of sold-out professional football games in 1973. But consider what the Republican and Democratic politicos up and down Pennsylvania Avenue have locked arms to do:
Give voters a one-year tax cut. In an election year.
Not quite the work of founding fathers.
“What I see in this package is nothing but a political stimulus,” Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker said a few weeks ago. “It’s a stimulus to make the American people think that we, as a body, are doing something to actually cause the economy to be stronger. . . . I bet there are not many in this body that believe that sprinkling money around America and asking people to spend it is going to do much to affect the long-term status of this economy. . . . I’m a strong believer in low taxes and creating a structure in this country that people can count on to move ahead and to make investments, but with that has to be the reality that spending has to be under control.”
Corker’s a Senate freshman so it might be tempting to dismiss this as the musings of a naive newcomer. The poor guy doesn’t understand that being seen as doing something is as important as actually doing something. It turns out, however, that one of the Senate’s stand-out veterans agrees with Corker.
“I think it’s more of a political, than an economic exercise,” Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow. “I am dubious that the economic value will be that which is purported to be the case. And it could preclude us from doing some more important things that could really stimulate the economy. . . . Now, political people respond to political requirements. And the view right now is: ‘There may be a recession coming, and we don’t want to be blamed for it. So, we’ll do something so that if it comes, at least the blame won’t be on us.’ ”
Maybe the $600 to $1,200 rebates (and $300 per child tax credits) will provide a psychological boost for consumers. That’s the most compelling claim advocates can make for the stimulus package. But it’s a jobs program only if you’re talking about Republican and Democratic jobs along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Too cynical? OK, try this: Consider calling this bipartisan political pandering by another name. Just call it “The Flat-Screen TV Relief Act of 2008.”
In one year, you see, all analog television broadcasting will end in the United States. Local TV stations will broadcast only in digital come Feb. 17, 2009. If you now rely on an antenna for your television reception, you’ll have to do one of two things to stay tuned to free, over-the-air broadcasts. You’ll need a television with a built-in high-definition television or digital television tuner or, if you have a standard television, you’ll need to purchase a digital broadcast converter product that converts DTV or HDTV broadcasts back to standard analog output.
Yes, Congress has put up funds to help consumers pay for the converters (two $40 coupons available per household), but that won’t cover the full cost of this government-mandated conversion to digital. And have you seen one of those slick new flat-screen TVs? What full-blooded American couch potato isn’t going to want one or two of these HDTV-ready babies since he has to switch over to digital TV anyway? And the cost of these HDTV-ready flat screen TVs? Big dollars.
Forget the budget deficit, tax and entitlement reform or economic problems that require more than one-time tax cuts or spending hikes. What is to be done about America’s looming boob tube crisis?
Let’s just say those forthcoming $600 and $1,200 U.S. Treasury checks will come in mighty handy.
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