Smoke and mirrors

As if to make positively sure no one missed the point that congressional Democrats don’t have the slightest idea what they’re doing with the stimulus package, Nancy Pelosi told the press the other day that prompt action was necessary because the United States is losing 500 million jobs a month.

That’s a lot because, if you figure it out, we could then have lost 6 billion jobs by the end of the year, and that’s nothing to sneeze at in a country of 300 million people.

Oops! Something is wrong here, but maybe you say it is no big deal — everyone makes slips of the tongue and 500 million sounds something like 500,000 and we have in fact been losing roughly that many jobs a month lately.

Such might be a good argument except that this is the same speaker of the House who was recently explaining how condoms could come to our economic rescue, who feels compelled to insult Republicans when she needs their support and who once said any progress in Iraq was due to nice Iranians instead of surge tactics.

She is incompetent, over her head, and lest you think this is male chauvinism talking, we should quickly note that Harry Reid is someone whose non-sequiturs, self-contradictions, misinformation, name-calling and partisan rants make him seem more a jokester on "Saturday Night Live" than a Senate majority leader.

Put these two in league with other congressional Democrats on a tear to fulfill every collectivist, big-government, self-advancing dream their hearts have ever entertained, and the inherent risk of even a well-crafted stimulus package becomes a blindfolded march toward the edge of a cliff.

Understand that we are now talking about something in the range of a trillion dollars, and that a whole, big hunk of this is not one-time, electrify-the-economy stuff, but spending that will be repeated yearly, an extravagance that some think may have toxic effect for decades.

On top of this is the reality of tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded entitlement liabilities headed our direction, and here is what some feel is the threat: a conceivable collapse of the dollar and a prospect of taxes twice or more what they are now.

Tax cuts truly can stimulate an economy, and the portion of the package devoted to that end is fine and should be expanded. But it has been pointed out that even some of the job programs have serious problems, such as creating these jobs where they are least needed, taking too long a time to get the projects going and robbing from even more job-creation in the private economy through the deficit-borrowing that then must take place. And finally we come to the legislation’s other components.

"Less than 10 percent of the bill could be considered true stimulus, if one assumes tax credits and infrastructure spending will jolt the economy," writes Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma in a Wall Street Journal piece, and critics have been busily spelling out where some of the other money is going — to the arts, digital TV coupons, flu avoidance, obesity prevention, Amtrak, the Census Bureau, the Smithsonian and on and on to the point of utter, irresponsible, wasteful, self-defeating silliness.

President Obama himself has gone to war with at least a part of this mess — a union-smooching "Buy America" provision that could lead to a disastrous trade war — but should and could have played a greater role along with his super-praised economic team, according to some critics who think he left too much up to congressional Democrats.

He’s nevertheless telling everyone to hurry up and get this package enacted, as if haste has never made waste we should all put our trust in the likes of Reid, Pelosi and others offering a deal neither strategic, coherent nor plausible.

(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)