Stimulus Isn’t Planting Money Trees

Representative Mike Doogan (D., Anch.) is a respected member of the community, and when Doogan talks (or writes), people listen. Not only is he a rational thinker, speaker and writer, but he is often witty; an uncommon quality that commands attention, lest the wit be missed.

Thus, when Rep. Doogan publishes in an e-newsletter, "I haven’t heard a convincing argument to vote against either the money or Campbell," there may be an element of humor embedded in the statement only his constituents can appreciate.

Given General Campbell’s distinguished service to the state and the nation, as well as commendable contributions to his community over the past quarter century, it is unlikely Mr. Doogan coupled the veto and the confirmation issues for any purpose other than brevity. Mr. Doogan invited, in his own special way, information from his constituency to adequately inform him of the general sentiment from within his district regarding acceptance of the federal energy stimulus funds.

It is possible that an overwhelming response to his e-letter invitation may occur. In most cases such a response is a legislator’s dream come true, and there is only one thing better than a full e-mail in-box: a full voice-mail box, too. In contrast, there is nothing more frightening to a legislator than full in-boxes in response to a vote already cast.

Thus, Mr. Doogan seeks to acquire a boatload of correspondence. He seeks information, not necessarily to inform him over, and over again, what he already knows about the energy stimulus funds, but to obtain quantifiable data to inform him that what he thinks he knows is actually what he does know. So too, he also knows that it is possible there is something he should know that he doesn’t know.

Although what he should know but does not is unlikely to persuade him to change his mind, since most of the arguments against overriding the veto are made on philosophical grounds, the one thing he does know is that he doesn’t know for sure how many of his constituents agree or disagree with his judgment that there is no convincing argument to vote against the money.

Such is the dichotomy of the Alaskan legislator in the post-Palin era. Vote to over-ride the veto and suffer the wrath of Sarah’s supporters, or vote to sustain the veto and face that of the Haters.

Gov. Palin aside, Mr. Doogan is no Joe Vogler, and is as unlikely to reject largesse from the federal trough as most of the villages were loath to refuse inexpensive fuel oil from a Marxist dictator.

The village behavior was rational in every sense of the word whereas borrowing from our children and grandchildren to improve energy efficiency and to purchase new cars is highly irrational. Essentially, the villagers had a choice: They could purchase 100 gallons of fuel oil with their budget of 300 dollars, or they could purchase 75 gallons with the 300 dollars, and also get an emotionally warm fuzzy patriotic feeling that would send a chill up and down any true-blue capitalist’s spine.

It is funny that it is OK if the federal government reduces the cost of a new car by 4500 (borrowed) dollars, yet villagers faced some degree of consternation for accepting a deal for a reduced price for their fuel. The villagers’ choice was indeed rational, and more importantly, their choice had no impact on the national debt and placed no burden for repayment upon anyone’s children or grandchildren (except possibly Venezuelans’).

For what it is worth, it is reasonable to conclude that the villagers, as well as at least 9.5% of the workforce, are getting a raw deal when it comes to the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program. Perhaps they should get $4500 off of their next ten purchases of heating fuel.

Or, maybe instead of crushing the clunkers, the good ones could be granted to the unemployed who may have recently had their car repossessed, or to the under-employed who could possibly acquire a better job if they had reliable transportation.

Oh, that’s right. The purpose of the Clunkers program is to remove less fuel-efficient vehicles from the environment, using borrowed money from China, to save the planet, and to give the auto industry a financial jump start.

The purpose of the energy stimulus funds is not significantly different. The federal government borrowed $28 million from China and gave it to Alaska to jump start the economy, reduce energy consumption, and help save the planet.

And that is the philosophical difference that Mr. Doogan and many of his colleagues will never come to really know and understand; debts have to be paid, and money doesn’t grow on trees. Thus, the federal government is trillions of dollars in debt yet produces nothing that generates enough income to repay it. The federal government can grow money from its Federal Reserve "trees," or it can tax productive individuals and businesses to repay the debts. Unfortunately, neither of these options, nor a combination of them, suggests a prosperous future for those (our children and grandchildren) who will eventually have to pay the debt.

Furthermore, despite arguments suggesting the energy funds do not come with enforceable conditions, the possibility does exist that a debt of gratitude could be assessed against the state by the federal government. As a result, philosophically, there are those who believe the federal government is benevolent, and there are those who believe it can be malevolent. Paraphrasing President Obama, the constitution stipulates what the federal government can’t do, but it doesn’t stipulate what it should do. One thing the constitution does not preclude is any mischievous behavior by the Fed, like using the power of the purse by threatening to withhold or deny funding to influence state or local government decisions. Once again, there are those who trust the feds, and there are those who do not. The same is true regarding unfunded mandates; those who benefit from the mandate love the Fed, while those who do not benefit, or have to fund it, may despise the Fed.

The governor, with the veto pen, indicated her level of trust and affection for the federal government.

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