Barackrobatics: "Every Dime"

Back in February, in remarks made in nominating Judd Gregg to be Commerce Secretary, President Obama said:

We will act swiftly and we will act wisely. The vast majority of the investments in the plan will be made within the next 18 months -- immediately creating jobs and helping states avoid painful tax hikes and cuts to essential services. And every dime of the spending will be made available to the public on -- so every American can see where their tax dollars are going.

He repeated the "every dime" usage in March:

It is the most sweeping recovery plan in our nation's history, and with a plan of such size comes an obligation to be vigilant with every dime we spend.

That promise lasted only slightly longer than Judd Gregg's nomination. Similar to what Mary McCarthy said about Lillian Hellman, every word was a lie, including "and" and "the".

Today, a USA Today article reports on the testimony of Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board, to a House subcommittee:

Although President Obama has vowed that citizens will be able to track "every dime" of the $787 billion stimulus bill, a government website dedicated to the spending won't have details on contracts and grants until October and may not be complete until next spring -- halfway through the program, administration officials said.

Oops. As Barbie is often (mis-)quoted as saying: "Math is hard." And putting names and numbers up on a website is a real tough technical challenge. Government employees might have to learn Excel, or something, and pay attention to the names on the checks they're sending out.

That "every dime" verbiage turns up quite a bit on the presidential teleprompter; as near as I can tell, it's a reliable marker for utter bullshit.

For example, Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in August:

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime -- by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow.

At the time, even Newsweek noted that was false.

From the first presidential debate with McCain, denying his massive spending increases would bloat the deficit:

I think those are pretty important priorities. And I pay for every dime of it.

And, at the time, this was also noted as a lie. (Insert obligatory "not that McCain was much better" disclaimer here.)

More recently, Obama has used "every dime" in talking about the Chrysler bailout:

It's a partnership that the federal government will support by making additional loans that are consistent with what I outlined last month. As part of their agreement, every dime of new taxpayer money will be repaid before Fiat can take a majority ownership stake in Chrysler.

Uh oh. Given the history, I wouldn't bet a single dime on that happening.

And note the careful phrasing: "new taxpayer money". This is designed to avoid describing what happened to the $7 billion in old taxpayer money (i.e., a few months old), which, as Jim Lindgren notes, is gone and ain't never coming back.

The Washington Times also reported on Devaney's appearance at the subcommittee hearings. (And, to repeat, he's the chairman of the Accountability and Transparency Board.) Although the citizenry is currently unable to track the money, it turns out that our elected representatives aren't all that interested either.

Just three of the 10 members bothered to show up for the subcommittee's second meeting, dramatically titled "Follow the Money Part II."

Devaney was pressed by one of the three appearing members, on Obama's job promises:

Mr. Broun was most interested in Mr. Obama's claim that the recovery plan would create "or save" 4 million jobs, but noted that the number of jobs "saved" is likely unknowable and that since the president took office, 1.3 million jobs have been lost.

"How do you plan to verify the actual number of jobs created?" he asked.

"Sir, we haven't really received any information about that on the Web site," Mr. Devaney said.

It's Other People's Money, and what Milton Friedman once said about New York City applies pretty well to our whole country today:

Last Modified 2012-10-08 5:39 AM EST

URLs du Jour


  • [Penny Black] It's the 169th anniversary of the world's first postage stamp, the "Penny Black". It bore the profile of Queen Victoria, then merely a year into her reign. Trivia that might win you some cash on Jeopardy!: because they invented stamps, the United Kingdom (unlike any other country) does not need to put its name on its stamps. It's assumed. And all UK stamps to this day contain a picture or silhouette of the current monarch.

    The great innovation of the Penny Black was the sender-pays concept for mail. The Penny Black image here was filched from Microsoft's Penny Black research project page, which is devoted to making senders incur additional costs for e-mailing, thereby making mass-spamming a less attractive economic prospect. As near as I can tell, this is going nowhere.

  • [44-cent yellow] Here in the US, postage rates are going up (again) in a few days. Instead of the Penny Black, we have the 44-Penny Yellow; since we don't have a reigning monarch, we make do with the next best thing.

    Consumer note: you can buy Forever Stamps now that will continue to work after the price increase. This Slate article contends (probably accurately) that Forever Stamps are not a good long-term investment. But these days, what is?

  • Further consumer note: As someone who once took an actual chemistry course, I recommend you avoid buying carbon-free sugar.

  • In continuing news, Jonah Goldberg points out that, gosh, the Democrats, having been swept into power largely on the perception of GOP corruption, are themselves pretty corrupt.

  • And Jacob Sullum points out that, gosh, the Obama Administration, having been swept into power amidst perceptions of Bush Administration lawlessness, is itself operating with little respect for the law.

  • And the indispensible Geraghty points out that, gosh, Obama has tasked Democratic tax cheats in the Executive and Legislative branches with going after "overseas tax cheats". (And for more datapoints in this particular vein: here and here.)

  • Fearless prediction: over the next few years, we'll be having an ongoing fascinating debate on what most typifies Democratic rule: corruption, lawlessness, or hypocrisy. It's gonna be a tough call.

Last Modified 2012-10-08 5:39 AM EST