Happy birthday, Stimulus!

February 17, 2012

Today is the third anniversary of the passage of President Obama’s Stimulus Pokulus bill, which was supposed to have us at below 6% unemployment by now. How’s that working out?

Whatever. Let’s not quibble over small details, such as being utterly, humiliatingly wrong. Instead, this is a time to celebrate Porkulus’ many accomplishments — the jobs and wealth created. How our (borrowed from China) money was wisely spent. Stories such as this one:

In an effort to stabilize the city’s real estate market, a federal stimulus program has spent nearly $1.5 million on eight Modesto homes that ended up being worth less than $1 million.

Example: Taxpayers paid $223,641 to buy and fix up a foreclosed south Modesto house that was built in 1992. But when the city’s 16-month renovation project was done, the home appraised and sold for only $114,000.

The government lost $109,641 on that just completed deal.

Taxpayers also have spent $109,494 to buy and renovate a 1948-vintage two-bedroom home in Modesto’s airport neighborhood. That house has appraised for only $55,000, and a buyer has yet to be found.

The federally funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program is being managed by the city of Modesto, which plans to resell an additional 18 or more rehabilitated homes this year.

The eight refurbished Modesto homes have cost taxpayers, on average, 34 percent more than appraisers determined they were worth after repairs were complete. That’s an average of $61,487 each.

In investing, that’s called “value destroyed.” And, as of the article’s writing, they weren’t finished!

Happy birthday, Porkulus! Just think of what President Obama can do with four more years!

via Elizabeth Emken for Senate

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Dear Rick Santorum: Get your hands off my slot machine

February 17, 2012

Sigh. There are just no limited-government conservatives left in this race, are there? We all know about Mitt Romney and the indefensible individual mandate in RomneyCare. So, fine, we’ll just vote for the true conservative in the race, the man who savagely and effectively attacked Romney’s legacy, Rick Santorum, right? Right?

Ehh… Not so fast.

From an interview with Nevada journalist Jon Ralston, per Jim Geraghty:

I’m someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we’ve seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they end to grow exponentially as a result of that. It’s one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it’s another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.

Freedom’s not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — “let everybody have it, let everybody do it.” No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn’t have and make available, to make it that easy to do. That’s why we regulate gambling. You have a big commission here that regulates gambling, for a reason.

I opposed gaming in Pennsylvania . . . A lot of people obviously don’t responsibly gamble and lose a lot and end up in not so great economic straits as a result of that. I believe there should be limitations.

Now, in one sense, Nanny Senator Santorum is right: freedom isn’t absolute. We have freedom of speech, but we cannot yell “fire!” in a crowded theater. We have freedom of religious practice, but no one advocates allowing human sacrifice as part of the service. (I hope.) Individual liberty generally meets its bounds where it endangers public safety or impinges on the rights of another. (1)

There are indeed limits.

But that’s not what Santorum is talking about here. He’s speaking in terms of a more moderate social cost (e.g., the damage done to a family by a gambling addiction) or simply the harm it might do to the individual person. And there’s the problem. As Allahpundit puts it:

You could swap in “drinking” for “gambling” there and have a rough argument for banning alcohol consumption in homes. (If you’re free to indulge in private, who’ll stop you from going overboard?) If you nominate Santorum, you’re getting a guy who’s more willing to try to save people from themselves than the average “personal responsibility” conservative, which means you’d better prepare for occasional moral tutelage from the presidential podium and maybe some new morals regulations if he can cobble together a congressional majority for it.

And for gambling or drinking, one could substitute all sorts private activities. Like to smoke? Want to order pipe tobacco or cigars from that great shop across the country? Hey, that stuff’s bad for you, bud! Want to watch an “adult” movie on late-night cable? President Santorum doesn’t think that’s “beneficial,” so he’s going to push Congress to regulate it.

Or what about credit card debt? Yes, there’s a real problem with people who wreck their finances abusing credit, but is it the government’s responsibility to protect us from ourselves? Would a President Santorum seek to limit us all to certain debt-to-income ratios? Do we get a “conservative” version of Dodd-Frank?

I’ll confess, it’s getting harder and harder to see much of an effective difference between the progressive liberal, Obama, and Rick Santorum, the self-proclaimed progressive conservative. Nannying is nannying, and statism is statism.

So, what does this mean for the election and how I’ll vote? I’ve said before that I’ll vote for any of the three serious potential Republican nominees over Obama, because I think any of them would be better than a second Obama term. But Santorum is making it much harder for me to be comfortable voting for him. If it is none of government’s business what health insurance I carry, neither is it their business if I choose to play some online poker — or a lot of online poker.

I’ve said before that I’ve decided to concentrate more on electing as conservative a Congress as possible (2) to rein in the big-government urges of whichever person is elected president. But this latest from Santorum has me thinking Romney would be the best choice for limited government conservatives.

Wait! I can explain! Put down the baseball bat!

Look at it this way: I’m convinced Mitt Romney has few set-in-stone principles and is more of a pragmatic problem-solver,willing to do what it takes to get the job done. In electoral races, that means he… “adjusts” his positions to fit what his target audience wants. In office, it means he works with whatever faction dominates the legislature to produce an accomplishment. In the end, this is a guy whose overriding urge is to be seen as successful. He is a tree that bends whichever way the prevailing wind blows.

Thus I’ve come to think that a President Romney would be open to the goals of limited government conservatism if he were faced with a Congress dominated by strong limited government, Tea Party factions in both chambers pressuring him from the Right. And he would be open to this influence in a way that a strongly principled social nanny-stater like Rick Santorum would never be.

Yep. It’s a “lesser of two evils” choice. Fun, eh?

(1) Another illustration of why I’ll never be a “Big L” libertarian; the ones I’ve met tend to take annoyingly absolutist positions.
(2) Want to help California “right” it’s ship of state? Check out Elizabeth Emken, who’s running for the nomination to face Senator Feinstein in November.

PS: When you think about it, Rick Santorum has something in common with Melinda Henneberger.

RELATED: More from Bruce McQuain at The Conservatory. A rebuttal at Protein Wisdom.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)