Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) - The Wrong Bill For America

Posted on February 8, 2009

The economy is in tough shape. Many people have lost their jobs and homes are being repossessed. Retirement accounts are losing value. Congress needs to take action to get the economy going again, but the so-called stimulus bill – if it is passed in its current form without major changes – is a colossal mistake for our country. It is not temporary. It is not targeted. It is not primarily creating jobs. It is not a stimulus bill. It is mostly a spending bill – spending on things that won’t create jobs now. It is money we're borrowing, and it is a huge amount of money. This is more money in today's dollars than the government spent on the New Deal, on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, on the war in Vietnam, and almost as much as we have spent on NASA since its establishment 50 years ago. We're rushing through this, and I'm very disappointed. I had expected better. It’s been reported that this is the first big test for the new Administration and the new Congress. And we hope that in this first test, both Congress and the President will get an A-plus. We need to get the economy moving again, but only about $135 billion of the $900 billion in this bill go to things that happen in the next two years when we really need it – building roads, locks and dams, and other things that create jobs now. The American people did not believe the kind of change they were voting for was to have Washington borrow $1 trillion, add it to the debt, and then take the position: “Democrats won the election; Democrats will write the bill.” If that is the tone, if that is the substance for the next several years, it will not make a very successful Presidency. It will not be good for our country. We want this President to be successful because we need him to be successful for our country to recover, and to do that we have to work in a bipartisan manner, taking the best ideas from both sides. Next week the Secretary of the Treasury is likely to tell us we need several hundred billion dollars to help deal with toxic assets in banks. I'm one of six Republican senators who voted to give the new president the second amount of $350 billion so that he can have it to deal with this crisis we have on our hands. But it doesn't increase my appetite to help with the next $400 billion or $500 billion if we're going to start out by wasting $1 trillion on programs that aren't urgently needed for the economy today. I'm disappointed the stimulus bill is not timely, targeted, and temporary. It is a colossal mistake at this point. We should fix housing first. Let people keep more of the money. Strip out parts of the bill and consider them separately. We Republicans admire the new president and the bipartisan tone he has set. We want him to succeed. This bill will not help our country succeed unless it is drastically altered.