Stim­u­lat­ing only statism

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Iwas in Ver­mont the other day and made the mis­take of pick­ing up the lo­cal pa­per. Im­pres­sively, it con­tained a quar­ter-page ad, a rare sight th­ese days. The rest of the page was made up by in-house pro­mo­tions for the ad­ver­tis­ing depart­ment’s spe­cial of­fer on yard-sale an­nounce­ments, etc. But the one real ad­ver­tise­ment was from some­thing called SEVCA. SEVCA is a “non­profit agency,” just like The New York Times, Gen­eral Motors and the state of Cal­i­for­nia. And it stands for “South-East­ern Ver­mont Com­mu­nity Action.”

Why, they’re “com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ers,” just like the pres­i­dent! The des­ig­nated “anti-poverty agency” is tak­ing out quar­ter­page ads in ev­ery lo­cal pa­per be­cause they’re “seek­ing ap­pli­cants for sev­eral po­si­tions funded in full or part by the Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery & Rein­vest­ment Act (ARRA)” — that’s the “stim­u­lus” to you and me. Isn’t it great to see those bazil­lions of stim­u­lus dol­lars al­ready out there stim­u­lat­ing the econ­omy? Cre­at­ing lots of new jobs at SEVCA, in or­der to ful­fill the pres­i­dent’s prom­ise to “cre­ate or keep” 2.5 mil­lion jobs. At SEVCA, he’s not just keep­ing all the ex­ist­ing ones, but cre­at­ing new ones, too. Of the eight new po­si­tions ad­ver­tised, the first is:

“ARRA Projects Co­or­di­na­tor.”

Gotcha. So the first new job cre­ated by the stim­u­lus is a job “co­or­di­nat­ing” other pro­grams funded by the stim­u­lus. What’s next? “Grantwriter.” That’s how they spell it. Like in “Star Wars” — Luke Grantwriter wav­ing his hope saber as in­structed by his men­tor Obi-Bam Baracki (“May the Funds be with you!”). The Grantwriter will be re­spon­si­ble for writ­ing grant applications “to aug­ment ARRA funds.”

The third job is a “Mar­ket­ing Spe­cial­ist” to in­crease “pub­lic aware­ness of ARRA-funded ser­vices.” Ru­ral Ver­mont’s econ­omy is set for a se­ri­ous big-time boom: The crit­i­cal stim­u­lus-pro­mo­tion in­dus­try, stim­u­lus-co­or­di­na­tion in­dus­try and stim­u­lus­sup­ple­men­tary-fund­ing in­dus­try are grow­ing at an un­prece­dented rate. The way things are go­ing we’ll soon need a Stim­u­lus-Co­or­di­na­tion In­dus­try Task Force and Im­pact Study Group.

I don’t want to give the im­pres­sion that ev­ery job funded by the stim­u­lus is a job co­or­di­nat­ing the pub­lic aware­ness of pro­grams for grant applications to co­or­di­nate the fund­ing of pub­lic aware­ness co­or­di­na­tion pro­grams funded by the stim­u­lus. SEVCA is also ad­ver­tis­ing for a “Job Readi­ness Pro­gram Co­or­di­na­tor.” This is a job co­or­di­nat­ing the pro­gram that gets peo­ple ready to get a job. For ex­am­ple, it occurred to me, af­ter read­ing the ad, that I might like to be a “Job Readi­ness Pro­gram Co­or­di­na­tor.” But am I ready for it? In­creas­ing num­bers of us are hope­lessly un­ready for jobs. Ever since last Novem­ber, many Amer­i­cans have been ready for free health care, free day care, free col­lege, free mortgages — and, once you get a taste for that, it’s hardly sur­pris­ing you’re not ready for gain­ful em­ploy­ment. I only hope there are enough qual­i­fied “Job Readi­ness Pro­gram Co­or­di­na­tors” out there, and that they don’t have to ini­ti­ate a Job Readi­ness Pro­gram Co­or­di­na­tor Readi­ness Pro­gram.

Oh, and let’s not for­get the new job of “VITA Pro­gram Co­or­di­na­tor.” VITA? That’s “Vol­un­teer In­come Tax As­sis­tance.” It’s an IRS pro­gram de­signed “to help low-and moderate-in­come tax­pay­ers com­plete their tax re­turns at no cost.” The words “no cost,” by the way, are used in the new Web­ster’s-de­fined sense of “mas­sive pub­lic ex­pen­di­ture.” Whoops, I mean mas­sive pub­lic “in­vest­ment.” You might think, were you a space alien re­cently landed from Planet Zongo, that, if tax re­turns are so com­pli­cated that “low-and moderate-in­come tax­pay­ers” have dif­fi­culty fill­ing them in, the ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion would be to make the tax code less com­plex.

Of course, it’s not just “lowand moderate-in­come tax­pay­ers” who have dif­fi­culty com­plet­ing their tax re­turns. So do high­in­come tax­pay­ers like Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Ti­mothy Gei­th­ner. Trag­i­cally, they’re in­el­i­gi­ble for the “Vol­un­teer In­come Tax As­sis­tance” pro­gram. In­deed, the trea­sury sec­re­tary seemed un­der the mis­ap­pre­hen­sion that it was a “Vol­un­teer In­come Tax” pro­gram, which would be a much bet­ter idea. But, be­ing in­el­i­gi­ble for VITA, Sec­re­tary Gei­th­ner was forced to splash out $49.95 for Tur­boTax and, sim­ply by ac­ci­den­tally check­ing the “No” box in­stead of “Yes” at se­lected mo­ments, was able to save him­self thou­sands of dol­lars in con­fis­ca­tory tax­a­tion! Oops, my mis­take, I meant that, trag­i­cally, by be­ing un­able to com­plete his tax re­turn due to a lack of Vol­un­teer In­come Tax As­sis­tance, Ti­mothy Gei­th­ner was the only one of 300 mil­lion Amer­i­cans to pass the Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Job Readi­ness Pro­gram.

SEVCA serves two ru­ral coun­ties with a com­bined to­tal of a lit­tle over 40,000 house­holds. If you wanted to stim­u­late the econ­omy, you’d take ev­ery dime al­lo­cated to Wind­sor and Wind­ham coun­ties un­der ARRA and di­vide it be­tween those house­holds. But, if you want to stim­u­late bu­reau­cracy, de­pen­dency and the metas­ta­siza­tion of ap­proved quasi-gov­ern­men­tal in­ter­est-group mo­nop­o­lies as the defin­ing fea­tures of Amer­i­can life, then ARRA is the way to go. Oh, you scoff: ARRA, go on, you’re only jok­ing. I wish I were. We’re spending tril­lions we don’t have to cre­ate gov­ern­ment pro­grams to co­or­di­nate the ap­pli­ca­tion for funds to cre­ate more pro­grams to spend even more tril­lions we don’t have.

The stim­u­lus will do noth­ing for the econ­omy, but it will dra­mat­i­cally ad­vance the cause of statism (as Mark Levin rightly calls it). The vote in Cal­i­for­nia is a snap­shot of where this leads: The gang­ster regime in Sacra­mento is an al­liance be­tween a cor­rupt and/or craven po­lit­i­cal class wholly owned by a pub­lic sec­tor union-bu­reau­cracy ex­tor­tion racket. So what if the for­merly Golden State goes bel­lyup? They’ll pass the buck to Wash­ing­ton, and those of us in non­prof­li­gate ju­ris­dic­tions will get stuck with the tab. At some point, the dwin­dling band of cit­i­zens still fool­ish enough to earn a liv­ing by mak­ing things, sell­ing things or pro­vid­ing ser­vices other than gov­ern­ment-funded pro­gram co­or­di­na­tion will have to vote against not just taxes but spe­cific agen­cies and pro­grams — hun­dreds and thou­sands of them.

The bad news is that our chil­dren will not en­joy the Amer­i­can Dream. The good news is they’ll be able to ap­ply for an Amer­i­can Dream Readi­ness As­sis­tance Co­or­di­na­tion Grantwriter Pro­gram. May the Funds be with you!

Mark Steyn is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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