15 February 2009

Counter-insurgency @ Home

I've heard that the Stimulus Bill includes $4 billion for "neighborhood stabilization, a program begun under the Bush Administration, and Community Development Block Grants, which were begun under the Ford Administration." A big rice bowl, to be doled out by some sort of competition, not handed over to organizations like ACORN. Neighborhood stabilization appears to be the buying and redevelopment of foreclosed properties, whild CDBGs are more flexible.

Neither involves the comprehensive provision of social services to neighborhoods that are otherwise being taken over by gangs, which I think of as domestic counter-insurgency funding. Because who you go to for physical and economic security is who controls the turf. And if the good folks abandon the turf then the bad guys take over. In the case of gangs, the bad guys are a loosely organized criminal insurgency. In some towns they outnumber the police. ACORN does provide some of these services, but not a complete set. We are leaving a gap which both trustworthy and untrustworthy organizations (gangs, "charities" with ties to terrorist organizations, etc.) can try to fill.

On the other hand, if we try to create a domestic "Peace Corps" to provide these services, we run the risk that the Corps could be politicized and abused to skew elections. This can be dealt with by reasonable oversight and checks and balances. But the possibility should not be ignored.

07 February 2009

Squirting Money

If you want to give yourself a rude shock, go to the Thomas website, and look up the bill H. R. 1, under consideration by the current Congress. That's the economic stimulus bill.

It reads more like it was not written, but excreted by a bunch of inarticulate, immature staffers in a terrible hurry. They just threw anything they could think of against the wall and are waiting to see what sticks. As if someone else was going to come and bail them out. The problem is that we are counting on them to be the adults. They are supposed to bail us out.

I was expecting several large, well thought out directives to make long neglected investments in infrastructure that will help to avoid or minimize future problems or that will stimulate growth in economic areas that we need to remain strong and free at home and dominant in the world. Things like fixing the levees in the Sacramento River Delta, and around New Orleans. Like inspecting and repairing or replacing bridges and tunnels. Like drawing fiber optics to replace CATV cable and twisted wire pair throughout the country. Or even - gasp - reviving the integral fast reactor (IFR), a type of inherently safe, proliferation resistant nuclear reactor that could power the country and the world for decades without a nuclear fuel enrichment cycle. We would have had dozens of them by now if they hadn't been nixed by the Clinton Administration.

I was also looking for things to draw investment preferentially into this country's economy, like reducing, suspending or eliminating the capital gains tax.

But no. What we get are a bunch of placeholders without any executing or enabling legislation that reserves money we don't have for spending on everything the Democrats have felt deprived of for the last eight years. Of course, some of those things need to be funded. Like insulating and weatherizing our homes and buildings. But not the whole load.

This thing looks like the product of brainstem rather than frontal lobe thinking, like it was produced by reflex rather than reason. It's Democrat trickle down economics, and it will work about as well as Republican trickle down economics.

Which means that it will work, sort of, if you don't mind the unintended consequences. Like the pseudo-neo-populist protectionism put into it that could start a beggar-thy-neighbor trade war that could tip the world into another Great Depression.

Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that at our President's urging, our trusted representatives will get it all sorted out and voted on by tomorrow. They aren't just going to lay a turd on us. They're going to have the legislative and economic equivalent of diarrhea. The hershey squirts of money.

When it's all over, I hope I can afford Lysol.