Obama and Biden will shame you

Obama and Biden both gave stern warnings yesterday about misuse of stimulus funds. "If we see money being misspent, we're going to put a stop to it," Obama told a gathering of state officials at the White House. How? Obama says "we will call it out and we will publicize it." Biden, meanwhile, scolded: "If we don't get this right, folks, this is the end of the opportunity to convince Congress that anything should go to the states."

If this counts as accountability, color me unimpressed. "Accountability" surely implies the likelihood or possibility of real consequences. The governor of Arkansas is accountable to the people of Arkansas. The managers of a company are accountable to the shareholders and the board. (Or at least to Carl Icahn.) But the managers of Pfizer aren't accountable to the shareholders of Microsoft, and Bobby Jindal isn't accountable to the moral indignation of Barack Obama. So when Obama and Biden start talking about holding states accountable for their stimulus spending, I'm left a little confused about what they mean.

How do they imagine this working? Say some construction project in Cincinnati takes a long time to get off the ground. Does Robert Gibbs read denounce the foreman at a press conference, or is his name posted on recovery.gov? Doubtful. And while Biden's answer suggests that the administration just won't give them money in the future, Nancy Pelosi is making it sound like stimulus cash is a one-time offer, anyway.

Biden says the administration is going to roll out some stimulus spending restrictions today, so I hope he puts my fears to rest. But I don't understand how this works, either: it doesn't sound like the administration is pushing new legislation, so can it just put retroactive restrictions on a bill the president has already signed?

Presented by

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


Confessions of Moms Around the World

A global look at the hardest and best job ever


A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

More in Politics

Just In