Must-read SOTU prep: A brief history of President Moon Shot’s politicization of taxpayer dollars

by Ryan Streeter on January 24, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Keith Hennessey has put up a must-read post on the recent Ryan Lizza essay in the New Yorker,  which describes the memo Larry Summers prepared for Obama in late 2008 about stimulus spending.

Hennessey writes:

If Mr. Lizza’s reporting is correct, over the objection of his economic advisors President Obama replaced $60 B of “highly stimulative spending” with a slow-spending but “inspiring” $20 B for high-speed trains and $40 B in pork for his Senate Democratic allies. And this is starting from a point at which he knew that his advisors thought that not more than $225 B of the $826 B total was high-quality, fast-spending, efficient stimulus.

Lizza reports that Obama wanted a big Hoover Dam kind of initiative, something that fulfilled campaign promises in an elevated way, rather than doing the dirty work of real stimulus spending. Lizza writes:

[Obama] pressed his advisers to include an inspiring “moon shot” initiative, such as building a national “smart grid”…Obama, still thinking that he could be a director of change, was looking for something bold and iconic—his version of the Hoover Dam—but Romer and others finally had a “frank” conversation with him, explaining that big initiatives for the stimulus were not feasible. They would cost too much, and not do enough good in the short term.

We’ve heard a lot about how Obama plans to make his State of the Union tonight more of a campaign speech than a, well, State of the Union speech. A Politico article yesterday put it plainly: “Obama will appear on Capitol Hill as a president who is virtually wiping out the space, never wide to begin with, between politicking and governing in the West Wing as Election Day nears.”

The leaked memo sheds some light on a pattern that goes all the way back to the beginning: the highly-politicized use of taxpayer resources to pursue objectives that Obama and his insiders care about more than what (1) the evidence suggests they should care about, and (2) what the American public cares about.

  • CitizenHill

    Point made: Obama and his insiders care about objectives that are apart from those which they should care about and to which the Americans really care about… to wit; Obama is working to initiate his own agenda, not that of the public at large… in the simplest of terms: let them eat cake!