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What the Big Print Giveth, the Small Print Taketh Away

At recovery.gov, the Obama administration has created a new web site to explain and defend the massive “stimulus” bill. And the explanation, if at all possible, makes the whole program even more incomprehensible.

It starts off with a handy bar graph showing how the money is broken down. And if you click on it, you get an even prettier and less useful bunch of bubbles showing the totals in (apparent) proportional size. (A pie chart would be useful, so naturally one isn’t given.)

According to the numbers, the  spending will be broken down as follows:

$288 billion in “tax relief”

$144 billion in “state and local fiscal relief”

$111 billion for “infrastructure and science”

$81 billion for “protecting the vulnerable”

$59 billion for “health care”

$53 billion for “education and training”

$43 billion for “energy”

$8 billion as “other”

But when you click through the bar graph to the pretty bubbles, you get some fine print:

Tax Relief – includes $15 B for Infrastructure and Science, $61 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $25 B for Education and Training and $22 B for Energy, so total funds are $126 B for Infrastructure and Science, $142 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $78 B for Education and Training, and $65 B for Energy.

So, let’s revisit those first numbers, adjusted for truth:

$165 billion for “tax relief”

$144 billion for “state and local fiscal relief”

$126 billion for “infrastructure and science”

$142 billion for “protecting the vulnerable”

$59 billion for “health care”

$78 billion for “education and training”

$65 billion for “energy”

$8 billion for “other”

With the wave of an asterisk, $123 billion in tax relief goes up in smoke. It’s like the old joke: if you call a dog’s leg a tail, how many legs does a dog have? Four — just because you call it a tail doesn’t make it a tail.

Amazing how that “tax relief” shrinks, by almost 43%. On the other hand, the undefined “protecting the vulnerable” goes up by 75%, “education and training” by over 47%, and “energy” by over 50%.

That’s one potent little asterisk. It makes one wonder what sorts of things are going on behind the scenes, if they’re being this upfront about their dishonesty.



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