By the time you read this, the president may well have changed his mind again and might be supporting the new spending package that was passed by Congress last week. With him, it might depend on what he had for breakfast this morning.
But as the rest of America decides whether to support or question the covid relief/omnibus spending bill/$2.3 trillion blowout package legislation, it might help to look into the details.
Not that we can do it here. We don't have the space. Not nearly. The bill that Congress passed on Monday is 5,593 pages long. The first published edition of "War and Peace" was only 1,225.
Thankfully, there are people who are paid to read these things. We call them newspaper reporters. The papers have been looking into some of the specifics of the bill(s), and one paper, a notable one called The Washington Post, says that there are more than $110 billion in tax breaks that Congress hasn't noised about.
"These giveaways include big tax cuts for liquor producers, the motorsports entertainment sector and manufacturers of electric motorcycles." To name just a few.
Some of these giveaways are called, in Washington parlance, "tax extenders." That is, they are tax breaks targeted to specific industries first passed for a limited amount of time. But somehow they are always extended. So often that The Post calls the extensions a year-end tradition.
"They are a gravy train for members and lobbyists, who repeat the same exercise every year or two," Howard Gleckman, a tax policy expert at the Urban Institute, told The Post. "The lobbyists get to keep billing hours. The members get campaign money from the same people. Many of these are classic special interest tax breaks that do not benefit the overall economy in any way."
Is it any wonder that so many Americans distrust the Washington establishment, aka Congress & K-Street Co.? A four-fold "War and Peace" has enough room to hide all kinds of pork in it. The whole episode highlights what is so wrong with the legislative process: Many small businesses are hurting across the country, yet our betters spend weeks negotiating millions for:
The Kennedy Center gets another $40 million in the omnibus spending package for operations and maintenance. To go along with what The Hill reports was $25 million earlier this year. NB: The Kennedy Center is closed, and has been since March.
The Smithsonian gets a cool billion for two new museums.
There's money to study doping in horse racing, study the succession (or reincarnation) of the Dalai Lama and mainland China's future reaction to it, and billions for foreign aid--a lot of it for countries that aren't necessarily allies.
Democrats have criticized the president for conflating the covid relief bill with the omnibus spending legislation in his various tirades and tweets, but since Congress tied the two together in a package, don't you think most Americans conflate the two as well? Some of the president's critics say the covid relief bill is different legislation from the spending bill, but that sounds like a distinction without a difference, given how Congress itself has melded the two.
In a normal December, people would be more concerned with the holidays and a busy schedule and wouldn't get this het up with Congress. But this isn't a normal December. This year many Americans and businesses are focused on their businesses, and whether they'll have jobs come January.
Too many Americans, including those in government, seem to think there is no cost to all of this. They are aided by economists like Paul Krugman and others who advocate modern monetary policy, as though there are no costs to wild and irresponsible spending.
Even the president, thrashing around in his last weeks in office, came out the other day to demand the $600 stimulus payment be increased to $2,000 a person. That fumble was picked off the ground by Nancy Pelosi, and she's still running with it.
There will be a cost; the only question is when. As more dollars come off the printing press, they, like anything else in abundance, become worth less. Then we'll get inflation, which will make retirement savings worth less as well. Next come higher interest rates. The spiral down is not appealing.
Such consequences to today's action(s) might not come in 2021. Or even 2022. But if those consequences to unhinged spending never happen, it will mark the first time in world history.