A Three-Point Test

Press Release

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: Feb. 13, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

A Three-Point Test

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Friday regarding the trillion-dollar spending bill:

"Across the country, Americans are struggling with a very bad economy. Every day we hear more heartbreaking stories about foreclosures and lost jobs. The situation is serious. It appears to be getting worse. And it was in the midst of this scenario that our new president took office. Like all of us, the President wanted to do all he could to help the economy. So he asked Congress put together a stimulus bill aimed at preventing as much future damage as possible.

"From the very start, Republicans supported the idea of a stimulus. All of us, Democrat and Republican, thought it was important and necessary. The question was: What kind of a stimulus? What would it look like? What would it cost? Who would it help? Where would it go? Most importantly: Would it work?

"These are important questions, particularly when the economists tell us that a bad stimulus is worse than no stimulus at all. As the President's top economist, Larry Summers, has written: ‘Poorly provided fiscal stimulus can have worse side effects than the disease that is to be cured.' And these questions naturally lead to another: How do we measure whether a stimulus will work? Well, according to Summers, there's a fairly simply three-point test.

"First, in order to be effective, a fiscal stimulus must be timely. Second, it must be targeted. And third, it must be clearly and credibly temporary. So, using the standard outlined by the President's own top economist, Republicans have asked: Is this bill timely? Is it targeted? Is it temporary?

"The answer, I've regretfully concluded, is a resounding no. This bill fails on all three points. And this means, in my view, that Congressional Democrats have put together a stimulus that by Democrats' own standards is likely to fail. Yet, with interest, this bill is expected to cost taxpayers $1.1 trillion.

"So the question now is what can the taxpayers expect for their money? Well, at a time when millions are struggling to hold onto their homes and jobs, Democrats, in the name of stimulus, want taxpayers to cover the cost of:

· Golf carts, electric motorcycles, and ATVs

· $300 million for new government cars

· $1 billion for ACORN-eligible block grants

· $50 million for out of work artists

· $165 million to maintain and build fish hatcheries -- $165 million for fish hatcheries.

· $1 billion for the Census

"I defy anyone to explain to me how $1 billion for the Census will stimulate the U.S. economy.

"So a stimulus bill that was supposed to be timely, targeted, and temporary is none of the above.

"And this means Congress is about to approve a stimulus that's unlikely to have much stimulative effect.

"That's why an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office actually predicted a potential sustained economic decline as a direct result of this bill.

"And that's why I can't support it.

"This is one of the most expensive pieces of legislation Congress has ever approved. Including interest, as I've said, it's expected to cost $1.1 trillion. To put that figure in perspective, consider this: if you spent $1 million a day, every day since Jesus was born, you still wouldn't have spent $1 trillion. This is an extraordinary sum of money. It deserves an extraordinary level of scrutiny.

"Yet even based on the ordinary standards of evaluation, it easily fails the test. And even if the bill were timely, targeted, and temporary, we'd still have to look at the price tag in the context of all the other spending we'll soon be asked to consider. The American people need to remember that this stimulus is just one piece of the Democrats' overall spending plan.

"Soon we'll be asked to consider $50 billion for housing, and unspecified hundreds of billions — possibly even another trillion dollars — for troubled banks. We'll also soon be voting on a $400 billion Omnibus Appropriations bill that will bring the total discretionary spending for the fiscal year to more than $1 trillion for the first time ever.

"This isn't Monopoly money. It's real. It adds up — and it has to be paid back, by our children and by their children. And the American people still don't have the facts about the total cost.

"We need to tell the American people the whole story here. If Americans can't be assured that these programs they're paying for will work, they should at least be told what they're going to cost.

"Even the Democrats admit that this bill is a $1 trillion risk. Today, the Democrat Majority Leader of the House asked his members to ‘pray that this bill works.' Why? Because, as he said, he's not sure that it will. I can't take that big a risk on this big a commitment of the American peoples' money.

"I know everyone involved believes that their efforts will help strengthen the economy and create jobs. No one should doubt that. Everyone is trying to do the right thing. My concern is not the motivation behind these efforts, but the wisdom of these efforts.

"This bill has been roundly criticized for being loaded with wasteful spending and hundreds of billions of dollars in permanent government expansion. Our plan would have reduced monthly mortgage payments and made it easier to buy a home. Workers would have been able to keep more of what they earn. It was also about half the cost of the Democrat plan.

"Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, wants the economy to recover. The question is: which plan would work. In my view, it's highly unlikely that this one will. I can't take that big a risk with other people's money. I will vote against it. I urge my colleagues to do the same."