Wednesday, January 28, 2009

HR1: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, William James, and Lobbyists

Remember the first bill of this historic, wonderful new Congressional era, with the majority in full agreement with the President. Take it from the Wall Street Journal: "This is a political wonder that manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years."

I'm not going to get into the details of this nightmare of a "bill": the word "Reinvestment" is an interesting one. Perhaps it might remind one of another "...Reinvestment Act," one that had a hand in getting this crisis started in the first place.

"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."
-Rahm Emmanuel, Pres. Obama's White House Chief of Staff, 2009
I spoke of the "moral equivalent" of war. So far, war has been the only force that can discipline a whole community, and until an equivalent discipline is organized, I believe that war must have its way. But I have no serious doubt that the ordinary prides and shames of social man, once developed to a certain intensity, are capable of organizing such a moral equivalent as I have sketched, or some other just as effective for preserving manliness of type. It is but a question of time, of skilful propogandism, and of opinion-making men seizing historic opportunities.
-William James, 1909

Rush Limbaugh is pointing out that 20 days ago, Barack Obama was saying that there is no way to solve this financial crisis except through government. And now, of course, with this big government "stimulus" bill on the table, he is paying lip-service to the truth that 'only American workers and businesses' can stimulate the economy. Well, duh. But it kind of belies what Obama's saying that he says it in defense of a slush fund that takes the money from American workers and businesses and gives it to politically connected interest groups and "infrastructure funding" for business interests with the most vigorous lobby groups.

But that's not the fundamental dishonesty here. It's that President Obama has often spoken of the horrible influence of lobbyists in Washington, and yet everything he does only encourages them and further entrenches their positions. I don't like lobbyists either. But you can't just bar them from lobbying. It is their constitutional right to petition the government for "redress of grievances." You might say, 'Oh, that's an ancient term. More like for filling of pockets.' Well, no. Why are lobbyists in Washington in the first place? Because Washington plays a game of 1) regulation and control of industry and 2) picking winners and losers through funding, subsidies and taxes. The industries that are most regulated, that see the most fluctuation in funding, subsidies and taxes are the ones who have the most lobbyists in Washington; Because Washington is in their business, they are in Washington's business.

It's as simple as that, really. The cause of lobbyists is not greed, or malevolence, or dishonesty. It's self-interest. Is that petty? Well, so is Washington's constant manipulation and regulation of their industries. If Washington would leave them alone, would avoid giving money to or propping up their competitors, would lay off regulation that affects their industries, then they would have no reason to lobby in Washington.

So Obama's stated goal of lessening the influence of lobbyists is completely at odds with his big government, super-regulatory, top-down management approach. The prospect of his administration has probably only increased the number of lobbyists and their influence. No, definitely so, because his administration brings a unity of House, Senate, and White House, an unblocked path to a world of new legislation. Money is to be had in Washington! Favorable regulation and subsidies are to be obtained there. D.C. might as well be renamed El Dorado. It's a lobbying golden age!

HR1 is only the beginning.