Friday, February 6, 2009

Maybe I'm a little hazy here...

But what is a "Stimulus Spending Bill" really supposed to do?

My thought is that it's supposed to be a temporary influx of money into the economy, for the purpose of jump-starting industry & commerce - providing capital/opportunities for re-tooling (both literally & figuratively) and even expansion into new business - which would in turn create new jobs, hence new incomes and new consumer spending, finding its way into retail and real estate markets.

As I understand it, our main focus in America right now is supposed to be getting our economy back on track - getting our markets moving and our citizens back to work.

To that end, one of the only things in the current "stimulus bill" that I actually agree with is the "Buy American" Rule - by which, any supplies, materials (specifically iron & steel) and equipment bought or contracted for projects defined in the Bill must be made in the US.

There are a lot of reasons why US products & materials haven't been able to keep up with the foreign versions - and not just because those countries only pay people 13 cents-a-day.

A good deal of it is because a truly, obscenely HUGE number of the environmental laws and other restrictions on manufacturing make our "old" ways of making things nearly impossible - and the complete re-tooling overhaul needed to work at efficient volumes within those restrictions is prohibitively expensive.

In order to invest that kind of money, companies would have to have a reasonable expectation of like-money coming in... which they do not have right now, because it's currently cheaper to buy product/material that "will work" - from China or other countries that consider their environment 'expendable' and workers-falling-over-dead to be "turn-over".

While I've been against the Pork-a-Palooza "stimulus bill" from the outset, I have to admit that it does present a certain opportunity, in proposing manufacturing-industry related/dependent projects that would be assured of going to American companies...

American companies that would *still* need to retool in order to compete with each other, while still operating under those aforementioned laws & restrictions - those changes would become selling points in the bidding for those jobs and the vastly increased likelihood of getting those contracts would be the impetus necessary to make those investments.

Once all those changes have been made, we'd be looking at a manufacturing industry far more able to compete with countries currently operating under the fast-and-loose 'smudgepot' rules that have allowed them to undercut US products/materials for so long.

That would be some actual 'Stimulus' - and enacted via a bill that is (on it's face) intended to be temporary in nature - and associated only to spending that would exist over-and-above the normal government and economic spending.

Let me say that again:

The Made-In-America rule would apply only to project-spending under this bill and would not affect the rest of Governmental/Economic spending/operation.

None of our regular foreign trade would come under this rule - the TRILLIONS of dollars in foreign trade that exist right now would continue as usual...

... except that, eventually, those foreign countries/companies would find themselves faced with viable competition from re-tooled companies in the US...

Near as I can tell - aside from everyone else in the world wanting to "Get Theirs" out of the Generational Theft Act of 2009 - the prospect of such new competition from the US is what the Rule's detractors are referring to as "protectionist policy" - as though this were some rule being proposed across-the-board & referring to ALL foreign trade.

Detractors like (wait for it...) John McCain.

"U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is joining other free trade advocates fighting a “buy American” provision in the $825 billion federal economic stimulus bill.

The buy American rule would force contractors and governments receiving funds for construction, research and other projects to use American-manufactured vehicles and materials to build those projects.

Proponents of the made-in-America rule say the stimulus money should be spent in this country rather than being sent to China or other foreign markets, which could lead to the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs."
Indeed - as I've pointed out above, it seems that monies intended to 'stimulate' our economy could be better spent than simply sending it to China - to stimulate their economy - so that they can be better able to manufacture more cheap products - to sell to us. ( and at that point "us" would be the American economy, having found itself buying from a manufacturing market with even less American competition)

Oh, but 'Teh Maverick' doesn't see it that way:

"McCain, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and free trade advocates criticizing the rule, say it could spark trade wars with Europe and Asia and be part of a wave of protectionist actions. Britain, for example, is considering similar rules for some of its stimulus efforts."
So (again, 'to me') that sounds like we should be concerned with other countries in the world saying "Hey! We get a piece of that Pork - and nuthin' bad will happen ta youse."

But wait, there's more:

“We should not sit idly by while some seek to pursue a path of economic isolation, a course that could lead to disaster. It didn’t work in the 1930s, and it certainly won’t work today,” said McCain referring to tariffs raised during the Depression.
....which is such a glaringly bad and unsuited analogy to the current situation as to make this man's nomination to the Republican Presidential ticket absolutely beggar the imagination.

I admit that I haven't been able to slog through evergy single page of the Bill (yet), but so far I haven't seen One Word about imposing tariffs (as both the EU and China have in place, btw), either for the specific purposes of this Bill, or otherwise.

As far as the Buy American rule goes - given the circumstances (purpose, impermanence & likely effect) - I just don't see a down-side.

And apparently, I'm not alone:

"The U.S. Senate voted down McCain’s first attempt Wednesday night, but the issue is expected to pop up again when final votes are taken on the package."
When I think that a vote for *Sarah* was also a vote for this shambling idiot...

- MuscleDaddy

P.S. - In case you're left wondering if I have the correct intent of rule - Here's a brief explanation by the Senator who introduced the provision - Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D

(Yeah - "D" - and exhibiting solid common sense... I never saw it coming...)

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