Stimulus Bill Turning Into A Christmas Tree

January 30, 2008

The Senate will likely cave to the demands of AARP and others to expand the stimulus to include rebates to elderly Americans who pay little or no taxes (and the rebates dropping from $600 to $500 to keep the cost the same). As we noted:

When dealing with a policy that is designed primarily to stimulate the economy, any arbitrary policy can almost be justified to some degree. But what this shows is that there is a problem in trying to use the tax code as the main vehicle for fiscal stimulus and/or social policy. Everyone is always going to complain that they are being shortchanged, despite the fact that getting money to everyone is difficult.

On second thought… maybe we should just send helicopters over every major city in the country and drop out $20 bills. And we can even make AARP happy by putting double the money in the helicopters that fly over golf courses in Florida and Arizona.

Because the stimulus bill enjoys such broad congressional support, it’s a magnet for all sorts of silliness to be attached to it (the term is a “Christmas tree” bill). The Senate may seek to add additional unemployment benefits. A provision has been added to prevent a Child Death Tax. Some are now insisting on an amendment to prevent illegal immigrants from getting rebate checks. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) think we should spend the money on infrastructure. The REALTORS® are happy with the stimulus bill, though. Contrast that with the Coalition [of Economists] Against Fiscal Stimulus, and those normally anti-tax congressmen who voted against it in the House.

AARP’s success at amending the bill makes this Canadian cartoon from 1985 seem apt:


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