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another gem from jim…

Real Obama stimulus is an old social agenda By Jim Wooten, AJC My theory about why the left so vehemently objected to the war and why, in part at least, they were so vitriolic in their hatred of George W. Bush was… that it represented a diversion from their push for a domestic social agenda: single-payer universal health care, in particular; affordable housing and the federalization of k-12 education. We are now witnessing in Washington the pent-up frustration of eight years of trying to work the angles with the Bush Administration to advance a social agenda here and there ‘” more federal spending on public education, expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and raising the minimum wage. Under the guise of economic stimulus, that pent-up frustration is erupting in a massive $825 billion spending bill that will significantly transform state and local government. The value of economic downturns to state and local governments is that they force choices. The so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 relieves that pressure and, furthermore, hooks states into entitlement spending at higher levels. U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah), visiting the State Capitol on Monday, noted one example. ’If you look at the fact that on the stimulus package, only 13 percent of it is public works, so all of this talk about roads, bridges, dam restoration, building renovation ‘” it’s 13 percent. The rest of it is social spending.’ For Georgia, the total for k-12 education, Medicaid and transportation is projected to be $5.6 billion. It’s substantial, but it’s not immediate economic stimulus. ‘Seven percent of the total money is all that can be spent this year,’ he says. ‘This shovel-ready myth is nothing but that. Why would a state get all the permitting done to have something shovel-ready if the money wasn’t already there?’ Instead, it’s a grab-bag of spending that’s been sitting on the shelf for years. ’There’s three huge steps the Democrats have taken right under our nose on socialized medicine,’ says Kingston. One is to expand SCHIP to more higher-income families and to cover the children of legal immigrants who are now obligated to wait five years. Another is to amend the COBRA health benefit for those who are out of work to eliminate the individual’s 20 percent portion. The third is to waive the requirement that states provide a 20 percent match for Medicaid spending and to expand Medicaid eligibility to the unemployed whose income does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty scale. The Medicaid waiver and expanded Medicaid eligibility are supposed to expire in two years. But, asks Kingston, ‘How are you going to go back to California and all the blue states, plus the swing states of Pennsylvania, Missouri and Florida and tell them that they’ve got to start paying 20 percent again?’ Each of the initiatives can and should be debated. The approach taken, however, is to use the economic downturn to lay the groundwork for what was once called Hillarycare. Under the stimulus, too, is spending on education that amounts to $142 billion, nearly double spending by the U.S. Department of Education in 2007, while prohibiting school choice. ’An unprecedented federal spending increase for education will not improve economic growth ‘” and past experience strongly suggests that this plan will not improve American educational performance,’ said Dan Lips, a senior policy analyst in education at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, which has taken the lead in analyzing the proposed stimulus package. In fact, Dr. Ben Scafidi, director of the Education Policy Center at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, just conducted a study that found that despite massive increases in public spending on education, graduation rates are lower than they were a decade ago. ‘This new research is important,’ he said, ‘because it confirms what many suspect. There is no correlation between increased education spending and improved student achievement.’ The stimulus is a social agenda that will lock states into higher spending, creating gimme constituencies that will block future efforts to curtail or control state and local spending. The briefly-delayed march to create the welfare state is resumed.

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