Senate Stimulus: Steal from the Poor to Give to the Affluent

ProPublica has done a comparison of the House and Senate stimulus packages. It shows, in striking fashion, how much the Grassley-Isakson-Coburn-Collins-Bad Nelson bill skews spending away from the poor–the most stimulative kind of spending, since these people need this money badly and would spend it right away–to the upper middle class:

Aid to Low-Income Families Total $124,186,000,000 $97,230,900,000 ▼$26,955,100,000
Health insurance aid   $2,272,000,000 ▲$2,272,000,000
Unemployment benefits $36,000,000,000 $39,490,000,000 ▲$3,490,000,000
COBRA healthcare for unemployed $30,300,000,000 $20,000,000,000 ▼$10,300,000,000
Hunger programs $21,176,000,000 $17,100,000,000 ▼$4,076,000,000
Housing $13,510,000,000 $8,600,000,000 ▼$4,910,000,000
Medicaid for unemployed $8,600,000,000   ▼$8,600,000,000
Job training and placement $5,120,000,000 $4,300,000,000 ▼$820,000,000
Disabled and elderly programs $4,200,000,000   ▼$4,200,000,000
Other $5,280,000,000 $5,468,900,000 ▲$188,900,000

 The Senate bill took out $27 billion in spending for the poor, ending with a total of $97 billion.

Tax Cuts Total $282,284,000,000 $358,162,000,000 ▲$75,878,000,000
Manufacturing   $1,603,000,000 ▲$1,603,000,000
Individuals $184,637,000,000 $302,198,000,000 $117,561,000,000
State and local governments $42,957,000,000 $14,272,000,000 ▼$28,685,000,000
Businesses $29,483,000,000 $17,546,000,000 ▼$11,937,000,000
Energy projects $19,961,000,000 $17,682,000,000 ▼$2,279,000,000
Other $5,246,000,000 $4,861,000,000 ▼$385,000,000

The Senate bill put in $117 billion in new tax cuts for individuals–more money than the entire $97 billion they give for those items ProPublica classifies as "Aid to Low-Income Families."

Those tax cuts consist primarily of two things: the AMT patch ($64 billion), which affects primarily upper middle class people in areas with high home prices, and the house flipping subsidy (up to $48 billion), the full credit of which is only available if inidviduals pay at least $7,.500 in taxes a year (there’s also $10-11 billion for auto sales incentives).

There are other reasons to oppose including these two tax cuts in the stimulus. The AMT patch, which isn’t really stimulative in the first place, would get passed and properly off-set in the budget appropriations process anyway. And the house flipping subsidy does little else than put money in realtor’s pockets. 

But the biggest reason is this: we’re taking food, housing, and medical care away from those who desperately need it, to put more money in the pockets of the upper middle class.

The Senate "Moderates’" reverse Robin Hood: Steal from the poor and give to the affluent!

The Grassley-Isakson-Coburn-Collins-Bad Nelson Bill

I explained yesterday how the people who crafted the crappy Senate compromise bill were, to a significant degree, Republicans. Republicans who won’t even vote for the bill.

But I forgot to credit the guy who really put the stupid in this bill: Johnny Isakson. Isakson is the former realtor who threw a huge sop to his realtor buddies into the bill, one that does little to actually stimulate the economy (aside from realtors, who after all got us into this mess), and which costs more than promised. The amendment, a $15,000 credit for those buying new or existing homes, will basically encourage more people to move houses–but will not necessarily incent new home building (because it applies to existing homes) nor will it encourage new buyers who would otherwise not have bought (because it’s for all buyers, not just first-time buyers).

Here’s Calculated Risk on how stupid this amendment is:

The sponsors and supporters of this tax credit believe this will support house prices – a mistake because this will mostly just shuffle homeowners between homes, and not reduce the excess supply.

If the incentive was for new homes only, the credit would probably help create some construction jobs. However, the job creation would be limited because of the competing oversupply of existing homes.

The tax credit for existing homes does almost nothing to help the economy. Some might argue that this is more work for agents and home inspectors, and might help with furniture sales, but the impact will be minor. Remember existing home sales are already at a normal level compared to the stock of owner occupied units, so agents are doing fine already (just not compared to the bubble years).


The key problem for housing is prices are too high. How does this tax credit help reduce prices? Why are we trying to artificially increase the turnover rate? And why are we targeting a tax credit at higher income individuals?

Dean Baker, more succinctly, simply calls it the House Flipping Subsidy. And oh, by the way, it costs $30 billion more than Isakson originally claimed it would cost. The amendment is still in the "compromise bill" (the cowardly Senate voted it through on a voice vote), and Isakson is not about to vote for the final bill.

So to recap, here’s how this crappy bill came about.

Read more


I avoided today’s debate on the simulus package (I shouldn’t have, because real Dems actually spoke, unlike last night, but I had to make an apple pie for mr. ew). But both in last night’s "debate" and the media today, it’s clear Republicans are pushing one meme above all others.

In spite of the fact that this bill was heavily crafted by Susan Collins, has the support of Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter, and probably Olympia Snowe, Republicans claim, it’s not a bipartisan bill. Whereas having Sanctimonious Joe vote with Republicans two years ago qualified as a bipartisan bill, this one doesn’t because, they say, they were locked out of the room where this was crafted. (In reality, a bunch of "moderates" left on their own accord, but truth is not a Republican strong point.)

But that’s not the most offensive part of their claim that this is not a bipartisan bill. AFAIK, Tom Coburn’s amendment remains a part of this bill, which basically prohibits these funds from going to support things like museums and parks.

Tom Fricking Coburn, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, has contributed to this bill. But that doesn’t qualify it as a bipartisan bill, for these fuckers.

And that’s not all. As Lithium Cola points out, using the work of Haley Edwards, the reason the Senate had to cut education and funds for states and Head Start is because Chuck Grassley insisted on putting the annual patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax in this stimulus package.

Haley Edwards at the Columbia Journalism Review points out a big part of why the Senate version of stimulus bill was more expensive than the House version and so "needed" to be cut back by scrapping projects to build schools and so on. The House version didn’t include the standard annual modification of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and the Senate version does.

But why, you might ask, is the Senate package so much more expensive than the House bill?

It’s got much to do with a single $64 billion tax cut benefitting the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans—a fact that was largely buried in reporting about the squabbling over which spending programs to cut.

Haley adds, "that’s one of the reasons why the House’s stimulus measure seemed to be $80 billion dollars cheaper than the Senate’s. It was really only about $30 billion cheaper—after you subtract the $64 billion revenue loss that happens every year when lawmakers curtail the scope of the AMT."

This raises an interesting question. Read more

Wanted: An Ask for Phone Calls

I just got this email:

Marcy —

President Obama recorded a video to speak directly to you about his economic recovery plan.

America is facing an urgent and unprecedented challenge. The economic crisis requires bold and immediate action.

Watch President Obama’s video and share it with your friends and family:

And I’ve also gotten friends inviting me in the last week to watch some other Obama videos together–that is, I’ve been invited to House Parties to discuss this. That means people are doing just as Obama (or David Plouffe) asks in their email alerts.

But I still haven’t been invited to call my Senators or Congressman (all of whom, granted, have voted for stimulus, but Debbie Stabenow voted for a stupid Tom Coburn amendment forbidding any stimulus money being used for musems and parks–I do plan on chatting with her about that and if you’re a Michigander, you should too!). Nor have I been invited by Barack Obama to call Sanctimonious Joe’s latest gang–Joe, Haggis, the Bad Nelson, and Susan Collins–to ask why they’re opposed to funds that will help states avoid cutting back necessary services, or why they’re opposed to constructing schools.

Mobilizing the millions of people on Obama’s email list is great. But isn’t it better to mobilize them to do the same thing the wingnuts are mobilizing their people to do–talk to members of Congress? Wouldn’t it be better to use that list to press for a more progressive (and effective) stimulus package?