This Sunday many New York Times readers will read that our country spent $787 billion on an economic experiment or test model of sorts. You know that test model by the name of the stimulus bill.
According to New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker, in an interview with President Barack Obama, the presidentadmits he learned too late that theres no such thing as a shovel-ready project.
Wow, what a revelation. But was such an ah-ha moment really necessary before the proverbial light bulb could be lit? The short answer is no. If Congress simply did its job during the legislative process back in early 2009, our country would not have had to suffer through this terrible economic "wait n' see" test model experiment.
Under the correct legislative process, Congress would have held hearings on this behemoth of a stimulus bill before the text was written. The appropriate committees of Congress would have called expert witnesses to tell Congress about shovel-ready projects and whether they actually exist. This learning process would have cost the American people nothing and the knowledge gained might have saved them billions of dollars and dozens of weeks and months waiting for those nonexistent shovel-ready jobs.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee would have been a logical place to start having the hearings and calling expert witnesses. After all, we were told that many of the shovel-ready jobs were in infrastructure. The member of Congress who runs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). This is what she said during the debate on the stimulus bill back in February 2009: Local people are saying to us, please senators, do something to help us get out there, spend the money on these shovel-ready projects. (Sen. Boxer, Congressional Record, S.1383, 2/3/09.)
Another top Democrat in the Senate, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said this during the February debate on the stimulus bill: Shovel-ready infrastructure projects are the most immediate way to create jobs and get the economy moving quickly. (Sen. Levin, Congressional Record, S.2304, 2/13/09.)
President Obama said in a Colorado Town Hall meeting back in August 2009 the following: There are almost 100 shovel-ready transportation projects already approved in Colorado, which are beginning to create jobs.
Hmm, shouldnt Chairperson Boxer have held hearings and called expert transportation construction companies to actually learn if these jobs exist? Instead, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wrote the bill behind locked mahogany Capitol Hill doors. They called no experts, no economists or industry heads who actually do create jobs. Instead, they bypassed the legislative process altogether and wrote a bill without any benefit from the good Americans who actually are the boots on the ground when it comes to jobs.
Stay tuned to see if the new Congress continues to bypass the legislative process when bills are written. This writer hopes not, it's getting way too expensive!
Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority and Minority. Currently she is a senior legislative adviser for Covington & Burling, LLC and is the founder of www GradeGov.com.