Friday, January 30, 2009

The Truth, Plus Distortion

There's no reason for news media to treat Americans like dunces.

This week's shameful partisan spat over the stimulus plan is shocking enough. “Not one person felt his or her district needed to have any of this assistance?” Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, asked of Republicans. “That can’t be.”

Even papers that generally keep a high standard have played loose with the facts in their summaries of the stimulus bill.

It's misleading to overlook the huge scope of proposed tax cuts, which even if they were reduced by half would still be the largest portion of the package. See the previous blog for details). The only programs mentioned there are $50 million for the NEA, $335 million for family planning, $70 million for a supercomputer for a weather facility, and $75 million for smoking treatment.

Let's put that in proper perspective. Added together, all of those programs total less than one percent of the proposed package. In fact, they aren't even one-tenth of one percent of the proposed package. That's right: 99.95% of it passes without criticism.

There's simply no need to distort a bill to emphasize old grievances like funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. That money isn't even one-thousandth of one-percent of the proposal, so it deserves no greater proportion of our attention.

We Americans can handle the truth. Give us the facts in proper perspective and we'll make our own judgments. If a party, or a paper, can't win our approval without tricks, they don't deserve it.

Components of the $825 billion stimulus package

Item                                                 Amt ($billion)

Tax Cuts                                        275

  $500/person, plus expansion of business loss writeoffs

Aid to States 119

   $87bn Medicaid, $25bn public safety, $7bn law enforcement

Education                                 117

   $41bn low-income support, $39bn secondary, $22bn college

Unemployment Aid                  106

  $43bn  jobless benefits extension, $39bn health coverage

Infrastructure                                                                  90

  $30bn highways, $31bn building repair, $19bn water, $10bn transit

Energy Investments                     54

$32bn grid upgrade, $22bn housing weatherizing

Investments in Science and Technology 16

  $10bn research facilities, $6bn rural broadband Internet expansion

Other 48

You can see more detailed figures in the actual proposal (.pdf document hosted by the Wall Street Journal).

Note how conservative this is - 'conservative' in the political sense. Tax cuts are not only the largest portion of the package, they're twice the size of the next largest item. More than twice the size.

And look at where the other big expenditures are: public safety, law enforcement, infrastructure. Even some of the liberal-sounding titles actually house conservative projects. 'Energy investments' isn't going toward solar-powered smiley buttons. It's primarily for upgrading the nation's electrical grid.

Good for President Obama for reaching across the aisle. Let's see how it works.