Looking to Congress for final passage of the so-called stimulus bill, President Obama on Friday was reportedly casting about for a symbolic place to sign it.
The dairy farm in Sullivan County, where the Woodstock Festival was held 40 years ago this August, might be appropriate. For many, Woodstock ushered in a period of freedom (or irresponsibility), love (or willfulness and amorality) and wishing-will-make-it-so.
Politically, there may not be a more fitting product of the flower child culture than this bill. Like a bong, it dissipates all worries about practicalities such as the federal budget process. It beckons ripped members of the House and Senate to blend into a dreamy fellowship where they could pass the largest spending bill in history without even pretending to read it.
In another sense, the Democrats are copying Wall Street's Ponzi scheme to "Madoff" our government right into the same ditch as the investment houses.
As with a Ponzi, the more money you load into the legislation, the better it looks to people in a hurry. The bigger it is, the harder it is to figure out. The bill on Friday had grown to 1,073 pages -- about 300 pages longer than it was last Monday.
That's about $750 million a page, not counting interest.
The "stimulus" will not cost just $800 billion or so. It will cost $1.2 trillion, when the price of borrowing the money for it is figured in. Fifty cents in interest payments for every dollar spent, and that's assuming the Chinese will give us favorable rates.
Counting interest payments through 2020, the size of this one bill alone will be bigger than all the goods and services produced in India in a single year. Assuming that the welfare, public employee pensions and other entitlement programs stuffed into the bill behind closed doors follow Washington culture and are made permanent, the legislation will cost every American household nearly $21,000 over time.
By "stimulus," Obama and the Democrats claim it will add or protect 4 million jobs. The second part, safeguarding some positions, is the more likely result. Those who already have jobs in the public employee and health care sectors, and those already enjoying benefits, will be helped. And it contains some rollbacks of the 1996 welfare reform.
But it will not produce a net increase of millions of jobs. Spending on public works, the quickest way to build private payrolls, is meager. Republican critics are right when they call it a massive increase in the size of government financed by money we don't have.
Borrowing for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and other government programs has already put Communist China in a cash position where it can, according to one estimate, buy a 20 percent interest in all publicly traded U.S. companies.
Undaunted, members of Congress kicked the can down the street by shredding every single House and Senate rule designed to restrain foolish government spending.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's promises in 2006 of a more transparent government need to be balanced against the fact that the final version of this huge bill was not posted for Internet viewing by members until 10 p.m. Thursday with a make-or-break vote scheduled for the next afternoon.
In addition, Democratic leaders added 421 pages of explanation for members to digest overnight.
Next on Obama's fiscal agenda is release of his 2009-2010 federal budget, an exercise made even emptier by "stimulus" borrowing. Then on Feb. 23, Obama will host a "fiscal responsibility summit."
Conferees can discuss there what will happen if this cure doesn't work, and we are dumped into a deeper recession when the stimulus money runs out.