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Story Archives: A multilevel disaster
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|A multilevel disaster|
The conventional media wisdom -- in the form of The Associated Press -- has already weighed in on the $787 billion economic stimulus bill approved Friday by Congress. It's a "big win," AP concluded, on the "signature initiative of the fledgling Obama administration."
That may be the view now. In time, however, we fear the measure will prove an epic mistake, both for its contents and its handling.
There is no question that in this deep recession, some economists believe heavy government spending is the only way to jolt the economy back onto track before millions more jobs are lost. There is also no question that millions of Americans think Barack Obama is right to chart a sharply different course than that of George W. Bush.
But the problems with the 1,000-plus-page bill are legion. The most basic flaw is that many of its projects costing tens of billions of dollars cannot be started for several years, meaning they will yield no short-term stimulus. It is outrageous to pass the tab for these projects on to our children and grandchildren.
Another unforgivable flaw is how the bill makes huge changes on major national policies without any significant debate. One provision guts the 1996 welfare reform law, which reduced caseloads by 70 percent. Instead, individuals will again be entitled to unlimited lifetime benefits without work requirements and, amazingly, states will have financial incentives to increase caseloads.
Other provisions appear to sharply increase the federal government's role in health care by establishing a national database of Americans' medical records and by monitoring every hospital's treatment standards on cost-containment grounds.
Defenders of the health provisions say these descriptions are inaccurate. But that brings us to the bill's final unforgivable flaw: Despite its importance and huge costs, it was enacted in such haste that no one has a firm handle on its contents and their consequences.
Given Barack Obama's constant vows to oversee the most open, transparent government in history, this is unconscionable. If this is a victory, we fear it will be a Pyrrhic one -- both for our new president and the nation.
--The (San Diego) Union-Tribune
|Frank Morris Murder Series|