Posts Tagged ‘stimulus’

Republicans Are Bad For Your Health: Susan Collins Edition

Monday, April 27th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Talk about bad timing:

When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year’s emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.

Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse — with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

But former White House political czar Karl Rove and key congressional Republicans — led by Maine Senator Susan Collins — aggressively attacked the notion that there was a connection between pandemic preparation and economic recovery.

Now, as the World Health Organization says a deadly swine flu outbreak that apparently began in Mexico but has spread to the United States has the potential to develop into a pandemic, Obey’s attempt to secure the money seems eerily prescient.

Collins, echoing Rove, was particularly adamant that $870 million directed at preparing for a flu pandemic did not belong in the economic stimulus bill. Because pandemics aren’t bad for economic activity or anything. And, of course, no one could have predicted that “swine flu” would present a potential pandemic all of 3 months later.

But at least Collins is a moderate.

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When Ambition Hurts

Friday, March 20th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

On the perennial dilemna of Governors harboring national political ambitions, Anonymous Liberal writes:

Governors with presidential ambitions often spend much of their time in office trying to raise their profile and pad their resume for a future presidential run. That’s to be expected, and in general, it’s not a bad thing for the people of their state. Yes, these governors probably spend a little too much time in Iowa and New Hampshire, but they also tend to do things to bring positive attention to their states. Governor Mitt Romney, for instance, worked with Democrats in his state to construct a universal health care system, the first such system in the country. Though his ultimate ambitions were clear, he attempted to further them by creating a record of accomplishment as governor.

What’s happening now, though, is very different. The Republican governors with presidential ambitions are tripping over each other to be the one that hoses over his own constituents the most.

This is, of course, pretty obvious. Ever 4 years, you get a rash of Governors who kick around the idea of running for President, and this generally leads them to try to do a lot of good things for their state in order to create a list of accomlishments to, possibly, run on. Similarly, Governors often run for the Senate after leaving office which, again, is usually predicated on being remembered fondly by the voters of their state. Here, however, you have a rather odd scenario in which a group of Republican Presidential aspirants have decided the best way to further their national ambitions is to give the residents of their state the shaft. And, perversely, they’re probably right. It’s certainly not hard to imagine a non-Gubernatorial candidate for President, say, Mitt Romney, criticizing any governor who accepts federal money as only paying lip service to their opposition, and it’s also not that hard to see national Republican voters punishing them for it. So the real lesson here is how decrepit the national Republican Party has really become, that in order to succeed internally, Republican governors must sacrifice the people of their states on the altar of ambition.

I do hope, however, that the DNC and various state Democratic parties make a point of connecting the actions of Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford to their naked political ambitions and, by extension, the national GOP.

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Banking on teh Crazy

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

I haven’t yet commented on the Republican governors considering declining their state’s stimulus money (or actually doing it), mostly because I haven’t yet figured out what I think about it. Steve Benen calls it a race to out crazy one another, but that seems a little too credulous for my liking.

First of all, the obvious connection between Governors Jindal, Palin, Barbour, and Sanford is that they’d all like to be President, and are all clearly convinced that opposing the stimulus is your best bet in the Republican Party. And I’m sure that’s a wise calculation, but there’s a bit of a difference between opposing the bill and actively turning down money for your state. As I noted the other day, national politics is relatively short on governors who served during economic downturns, mostly because it’s hard to accumulate a list of accomplishments to run on as a result. You get to cut spending on state services, and that’s a hard sell to make down the road, even to the national Republican Party. So I suppose these governors are trying to distinguish themselves, but it seems a little odd all the same.

For one thing, they’re taking an awfully big gamble. Congressional Republicans opposing the stimulus bill makes sense; if it works you’re not going to get credit regardless, but if it fails, or is seen to have failed, you can gain from having opposed it. Now that it’s passed, any governor actually thinking about turning down the money is betting on an awfully big stretch; that their state’s economy will do better than the rest of the country without the money. That’s the only way this can really work out as a positive for them, and the only way they could really sell this nationally. Obviously that’s quite a bit unlikely, and the downside is much starker; the national economy recovers, at least somewhat, while your state continues to suffer, or even to recover at a pace slower than the national average. In that case you’ve not only hurt your own personal political career, you’ve provided an incredibly stark, side by side comparison of two competing worldviews, and if you bust you’ll have a hard time defending your entire ideology for a generation or so. It won’t be an abstract debate over competing economc theories, it will be an objective assessment of the two theories played out in real time.

Of course, it’s also possible that the governors are trying to short circuit the plan. That theory would be bolstered by what has been refused so far; Jindal wants to refuse additional millions for unemployment insurance, and Sanford is going to refuse money to make buildings more energy efficient. These are not only some of the most popular aspects of the package, but also among the most stimulative. The wrench in this view, I think, it that it’s just hard to see how refusing money to be spent in Louisiana or South Carolina is going to have a huge ripple effect on the national economy. Neither state is all that big, and there’s nothing particularly special about either state that gives it a disproportionate impact on the national economy. So the most likely outcome is that these state economies lag behind the rest of the country, which is bad for the citizens in those states, but also bad for the governors managing the situation as well.

It is, in other words, totally crazy.

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Return of the Shrill

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Clive Crook wants to be serious:

I do try to be reasonable, which I know can be infuriating, but as it happens I don’t think that “being reasonable means declaring, in all circumstances, that Democrats and Republicans are equally in the wrong”. Each side is usually somewhat wrong, I find, but the proportions do vary according to topic. I am very much in the Democratic camp on the stimulus, for instance. I think it is unreasonable, on the other hand, to regard everything Republicans say as definitionally wicked or stupid or both, which is the organising principle of everything Paul [Krugman] writes in the NYT.

I don’t know if that’s really the underlying assumption to everything Krugman writes, but Krugman’s point in the larger discussion going on, that you simply can’t “seriously engage” with Republicans on the stimulus because there’s nothing to engage with, is pretty sound. Forget, for a second, the “economic theory” of modern Republicanism. Forget grave intonements about spending, and deficits (all of a sudden) and the preferability of tax cuts, and their hand-wring over “Europe,” and just consider the following.

Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee. He was also the chief agitator for including a $70  billion AMT patch in the stimulus bill. Many, many people pointed out that this was both wasteful and pointless; on the one hand it would mostly be targeted at upper-middle class earners who hadn’t lost their jobs, meaning there would be little stimulative effect, but that also, rightly or wrongly, Congress would no doubt have done it anyway at some point, so there was no reason to put it in this bill. Nevertheless, Grassley got what he wanted, and school construction, aid to states, and so on were cut in favor of Grassley’s AMT patch.

Now, after being placated to the tune of 9% of the entire bill, what did Chuck Grassley do? He voted against the final bill of course. Along with all but 3 Republicans in the entire Congress.

Put the economics aside for a second, and ask yourself what, exactly, there is to “engage” in such blatantly craven political positioning?

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Centrist You Say?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Via Steve Benen, I see that the “moderates” in the Senate are taking a, um, hard line in regards to their brokered Senate deal:

Once the Senate holds an official up-or-down vote on the stimulus Tuesday, the bill will go to conference, where differences between the versions passed by the two chambers of Congress will be ironed out. That could mean funding that was cut as part of the Senate deal will end up in the final legislation.

Already, both Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), the architect of the compromise, and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), one of three Republicans whose support was crucial on Monday, have come out to say they won’t accept a bill that’s much different from the one they voted for.

So let’s unpack this a little bit. The legislative process is not over; bills have passed both houses, but they have to be reconciled in conference. That is to say that there’s more negotiating to be done. But the self styled “moderates” in the Senate have decided that they’re done negotiating, even though the legislative process isn’t over, and that they will accept nothing but “their” bill. Am I the only one seeing the disconnect between this rhetoric and their centrist preening? Isn’t that as stubborn as anything “partisan?” Doesn’t it sort of bely the idea that the Nelson-Collins axis is some sort of nonpartisan pragmatist wing? And considering that the House version of the bill is both more stimulative and cheaper, what exactly are the “moderates” moderating by insisting on their larger, more wasteful, bill?

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Maybe a Bit Too Far

Monday, February 9th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Daniel Drezner makes the fairly ridiculous assertion that “Keynsians” are becoming the new neocons, and that Krugman, specifically, is reminding him of Richard Perle. I suppose I should point out that this is basically just another invocation of “the Shrill One” and doesn’t actually contain any sort of substantive rebuttal to Krugman, but in the spirit of comity and seriousness I’ll give this a bit more thorough unpacking.

First, it’s worth keeping in mind that the underlying circumstances Drezner is comparing are about as far apart from one another as night and day. In retrospect, one of the most appalling things about the neocons in the run-up to the Iraq War was the way they shamelessly exaggerated the threat Iraq posed. I mean, senior administration officials right up to the President actually said, repeatedly, that there was a risk Iraqi Predator drones might disperse a chemical agent over a U.S. city sometime this decade and warned, “the smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud.” It’s sort of hard to remember that now, mostly because subsequent discoveries have demonstrated just how ridiculous the idea was, and I suspect most of us just want to forget that we actually fell for the bullshit.

On the other hand, I very much doubt that anyone really thinks we do not, in fact, have a dire economic situation on our hands. I mean, we lost 600,000 jobs last month, unemployment is at a 16 year high, and is likely to crack double digits by mid-year. It’s right in front o our faces, in other words. Indeed, even the biggest right-wing critics of the stimulus bill aren’t denying the existence of a problem so much as they’re trying to blame it on Democrats.

Secondly, I suppose it’s just me, but if anything I think Drezner is painting with an overly large brush by invoking the specter of “Keynsians,” in the sense that he seems to be implying that Krugman, and others, have a knee-jerk, ideological, favor for massive fiscal expansion in the face of economic downturns. But that’s not really true, of course, and Krugman has written before that, usually, the best cure for an economic downturn is monetary policy. But every recession is not created equal, and in this unique situation that’s not an option. It’s a strategy of “fiscal policy of last resort” so to speak.

Finally, I don’t really think Krugman is wrong to treat stimulus opponents so dismissively, and Drezner doesn’t really outline why he should. To wit, neither the Republican opposition nor the centrist trimmers are actually providing any sort of rationale for their positions and, when they do, the nonsense borders on comical. How, exactly, are you supposed to substantively engage with a party whose chairman is on national television arguing that a government job, or a job contracting for the government, isn’t really a job and that the problem with the stimulus bill is that it just “makes work?” I’m not saying that bona fide detractors shouldn’t be engaged with in a serious fashion, but for the most part there aren’t bona fide detractors in this sense. You have, on the one hand, a bunch of wingnuts (yes wingnuts) running around saying ridiculously absurd things on a daily basis and, on the other hand, a group of “centrists” looking for a chance to preen for the Broders of the world. That’s not a recipe for any sort of substantive debate, and treating either of those as intellectually serious positions would be insulting.

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Conference

Monday, February 9th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

On centrists, Jon Chait writes:

They took a $900 billion stimulus and decided to knock off a nice round hundred billion dollars because that shows they’re centrist. If the House had passed a $1 trillion bill, they would have decided $900 billion was the perfect figure. This is essentially the same way they operated with the Bush tax cuts.

Of course, when Senate centrists did knock down the cost of the Bush tax cuts a bit, and thus declared that centrism has prevailed, Republicans just turned around in conference committee and made the spending cuts meaningless. For technical reasons, I don’t think Democrats can do the same thing this time. But I do think they can reverse the state budget aid cuts, which is the most damaging cut the centrists imposed, and swap it for something else. In fact I think a conference committee could undo a lot of the damage, and probably bring the price tag up a bit.

The thing to pay attention to now is the Congressional wrangling over the conference process. The Senate wants the House to pass their bill in full, and the House wants to go to Congress, where Pelosi will likely stuff the negotiating team and demand more, well, stimulus. I suspect that some of the more egregious cuts; aid to states, school construction, and food stamps, will get back into the final version and some of the more odious ta credits will be removed. The centrists may not like that, but I just don’t see what they’re going to do about it. See, for example, this:

In other words, there’s really no constituency for opposing the stimulus bill. The American public, by and large, want the government to pass something, the business community, certainly not looking forward to a prolonged recession, wants the bill to pass, and wingnuts listening to the radio, and journalists yapping on teevee, are a rather small group of people to pander to. So I just don’t see the Collins-Nelson-Specter axis actually opposing the bill at the end of the day, certainly not if it means the bill actually fails, and they have to take the fall for defeating it.

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600,000 Jobs

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

That’s what Krugman estimates the bi-partisan fetishists cost the economy with their pointless cuts to the stimulus bill. But David Broder shed a tear of joy, and isn’t that worth way more than 600,000 jobs?

In all seriousness, I’m not one to jump on the fatalist bandwagon. Yes some worthwhile (and some very worthwhile) things were cut, and some rather pointless things were included. I mean, a tax credit to buy a house, didn’t a housing bubble kick off this shit fest? But in any event, some stimulus is better than nothing, and this is still a very large package at $850 billion. It’s also possible that much of what was cut from the Senate version of the bill will be re-inserted in conference, assuming Pelosi can outmaneuver the Senate, which apparently expects the House to pass the Senate version in full. I suppose some might worry that the Collins-Nelson axis will reject such a package when it comes back to the Senate, but I’m willing to bet they’ll come down on the side of stimulus if their backs are to the wall. Which is to say, I don’t think they’ll actually go out on a limb and actually defeat the bill in the Senate.

Still, the reduction in aid to states is very troubling. That’s the sort of crucial spending we need justto keep things relatively stable. So here’s hoping that, in particular, gets put back into the package before Obama signs it.

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Gonna Be a Long Day

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Joe Klein makes a fairly stunning revelation about himself and journalism in general:

In 1993, I did a pretty shabby job of covering Bill Clinton’s economic plan. It was, in sum, a very good plan–it worked wonders for the economy–but I focused on the mishaps. (Clinton, for example, pulled the rug out from under House Democrats by offering a carbon tax, which they voted for…and then the President removed it from the bill.) Clinton couldn’t get any Republican votes for the package. A disaster! He had trouble getting Democratic votes for it; he had to beg Bob Kerrey for his vote to get it through the Senate. His presidency was in ruins! He had lost all credibility! (Actually, those of us who had focused on some big ugly trees rather than the blooming forest were the ones who had lost credibility.) It pains me to watch normally reasonable colleagues overreacting to Obama’s situation now–which is far less dire than Clinton’s was. Some form of stimulus will pass. If it doesn’t revive the economy, then more stimulus will be passed. Obama’s maintaining the proper balance of reaching out to Republicans, making some compromises, but staying firm on the need for a bill that includes public works as well as tax cuts. A Republican Senator, a vocal opponent of the bill, told me the other day: “The guy has really impressed us. We may not vote for the bill, and he may have to learn that you have to give us more than he wants to give us to make us happy, but he’s made a really strong start that will work to his benefit down the road.”

It’s sort of remarkable to see a journalist actually admitting this, but at the same time, there’s nothing shocking about the substance of this excerpt. As Ezra reminds us, this is basically what the media does, they find spending proposals that look sort of ridiculous or that don’t seem to make any sense and they attack them. Part of their public watch dog image I suppose. But that’s sort of a problem when spending a lot of money quickly, maybe on things you wouldn’t normally be looking at, is the point. To that end, Digby wants Obama to embrace the war of ideas:

If you want to defeat that dynamic, you have to take on the Republicans and win the ideological war. There are always Senators who want to stab their leadership in the back and make themselves feel powerful and there are always radicals and there are always villagers. And there are also true ideological differences among the Americans they represent. You can’t make them all get together and agree. It’s just not the way the system is designed. You have to win the votes of the people and then lead your party to pass your agenda.

I think that last part is right, but it really doesn’t fit in with engaging in the “ideological war,” and that, I think, would be an extreme folly. It’s natural, I suppose, for those of us who spend lots of time engaged in that area to want the President or our other political representatives to join us in the struggle, but Barack Obama is not the academic-in-chief, and turning around 20-30 years of cultural perception had better not be a pre-requisite to getting anything done. Indeed, that’s exactly backwards in regards to how public perception changes. FDR didn’t enact the New Deal after fundamentally changing the way people viewed government and their bootstraps, those views changed after people saw the effect the New Deal had on the economy relative to the laissez-faire approach of Herbert Hoover. Similarly, the cultural winds didn’t turn back to the right because they made any sort of convincing economic argument to back up their theories, but rather dumb luck. Reagan drilled home the “tax cuts” meme relentlessly in the early part of his administration, and then had the good fortune to have near perfect timing with Paul Volcker’s efforts at the Fed. But had Volcker come along 2 years later, and had the 1981-82 recession happened, instead, in 1983-84, Reagan would have been run out of town in a landslide, the following Democrat would have gotten credit for ending the stagflation economy, and the course of the last 25 years in American politics would be drastically different.

To this end, I think Digby is right to remind us how bitterly fought over Clinton’s economic package was, passing by only 1 vote in the House, and Al Gore’s tie-breaking vote (after Bob Kerrey’s reluctant support) in the Senate. But all the same, the close vote, and partisan make up of the bill’s supporters, didn’t change the effects of the bill on the economy. To that end, the important thing for Democrats and progressives to worry about is passing a bill, and passing more bills after that. If the economy approves over the long run, then the shift in political consciousness will come with it.

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Reconciliation

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

To follow up on the poker metaphor, the idea of moving the stimulus bill straight to the reconciliation process seems like a very bad move to me.

In poker, when someone with a very short stack (not a lot of chips) goes all in with a bad board, more often than not the larger stacks are “pot committed,” that is the bet isn’t big enough to justify folding and just handing the other guy the chips. Even if you aren’t holding a great hand, it’s worth the investment to go the distance and, possibly, catch the other guy bluffing. That’s what I think you’re seeing with Senate Republicans; they don’t have a lot of options, so they’re making a relatively large bet for them, hoping to frighten their Democratic counterparts. To this end, reconciliation is a good thing for the GOP Senators, as it gives them the same luxury House Republicans have; they can oppose the stimulus bill without any realistic hope of actually defeating it. And while reconciliation may become necessary if the Republicans can actually hold the line on cloture (something I don’t see as all that likely myself), going for it right off the bat seems like a bad move that would only give Republicans a way to oppose the bill without paying any real cost for it.

In other words, Democrats should call Senate Republicans. Maybe you catch them in a bluff, but in the worst case scenario you only lose a couple of days before you pass the bill anyway.

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Call

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Regarding the Senate’s consideration of the economic stimulus package, WaPo reports:

Senate Democratic leaders conceded yesterday that they do not have the votes to pass the stimulus bill as currently written and said that to gain bipartisan support, they will seek to cut provisions that would not provide an immediate boost to the economy.

That Democrats are talking about concessions makes me believe they really don’t think they have the votes, to which I have just one thing to say; awesome.

No, I haven’t changed my mind on the stimulus package, but this is the best political opportunity ave Congressional Democrats had at any point in the debate. One thing House Republicans had going in their favor was a total inability to actually stop the bill in that chamber. Because of that, they were all able to oppose the bill, without having to deal with any immediate consequences. Senate Republicans don’t have that luxury, as at least 2 of them will have to vote for cloture to keep the bill alive. Because of this dynamic, Senate Democrats should press ahead with a cloture vote, with or without Republican votes. This is the definition of a win-win scenario.

On the one hand, forcing a vote could expose the GOP’s position, and when push comes to shove the camber’s more moderate members may feel forced to support the bill. In this case, you get the bill passed the Senate with some Republican support. On the other hand, if the Senate Republicans actually kill the bill, you get an opportunity to fundamentally reshape the public debate around the bill in the wake of what will almost surely be a dramatic drop in the market following the vote. It does seem that one of the biggest problems Democrats are having at the moment is in conveying the urgency of the moment, particularly in the media. A dramatic, sudden, drop in the market in the wake of the bill’s failure would do more than anything to change that, and really put the matter into some perspective for the talking heads.

This isn’t really a novel strategy, I confess. It’s essentially what happened with the TARP package after the House initially voted against the bill. The effect of the resulting market decline was to create a sharp change in the narrative around the proposal, and a new sense of urgency in passing it. There’s no reason the same dynamic couldn’t hold here, and unlike TARP, the stimulus bill already enjoys a pretty solid level of public support. So if Republicans are actually willing to kill the bill, as opposed to just making noise in the background as it passes, there’s going to be a steep price to be paid in the short-run, which should help Democrats not only on this bill, but on other spending and reform proposals over the next 6-9 months.

So go on, let it fail.

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Whipping the Stimulus

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Chris Bowers has the count:

  • Likely Supporters (58): 56 Democrats plus Collins and Snowe
  • Undecided (5): Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota), Mel Martinez (R-Florida), Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) and Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania).
  • Special Case (1): Judd Gregg (New Hampshire). It has been suggested that Gregg’s vote might be swayed through an appointment as Commerce Secretary. That’s a pretty high price for a vote, but it is worth noting here nonetheless.
  • Likely Opponents (35): All Republicans. Take the 34 Republicans with public statements opposing the stimulus, remove Judd Gregg, and add John Barrasso and Mike Johanns. There is simply to way that freshman Republicans from two of the last five remaining Republican states in the country will back President Obama over their party leadership.

In order to pass the stimulus package, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama need to sway at least two of the six Senators in the undecided / special case categories.

I think that’s probably an accurate characterization, but I don’t know about the conclusion. I can’t, for example, really see Democrats voting against cloture on the bill, even if someone like Nelson, Conrad, Lincoln, Pryor, or Landrieu ultimately votes against the bill. And if that line holds on the cloture vote, Snowe and Collins put you over the top. As I said the other day, I also really can’t see Gregg and Specter opposing the bill when they have to run for re-election in states that Obama won by 9 and 10 points, respectively.

All in all I think the optics are pretty simple, and benign, on this one; Senate Republicans will force a cloture vote as a sop to the right-wing, knowing all along that the votes aren’t there to actually beat the package. I don’t think they’d be using the F-word if they actually thought it might kill the proposal.

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Broderism and Journalists as Pundits

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

by Brien Jackson

It’s not the worst thing that’s been written on the subject, but nevertheless, as you would expect, David Broder is worried about the stimulus. Not that it’s not enough to help a terrifingly fragile economy of course, but that Democrats aren’t doing enough to get Republicans to support the bill.

Beyond these policy challenges, there are political considerations that make it really important for Obama to take the time to negotiate for more than token Republican support in the Senate.

Nothing was more central to his victory last fall than his claim that he could break the partisan gridlock in Washington. He wants to be like Ronald Reagan, steering his first economic measures through a Democratic House in 1981, not Bill Clinton, passing his first budget in 1993 without a single Republican vote.

The first way leads to long-term success; the second foretells the early loss of control.

This vote will set a pattern for Obama, one way or the other. He needs a bipartisan majority because, tough as this issue is, harder ones await when he turns to energy, health care and entitlement reform.

This is silly on the face of it. On the one hand, I’d be remissed if I didn’t point out that Broder (a campaign journalist by trade) brings a column about the stimulus package back to politics. This is the problem with having journalists writing your Op-Eds; since everyone more or less writes about what they know, the discussions inevitably come back to horserace electoral framing. And on some level Broder’s point is correct, it would be politically advantageous for Democrats to secure a lot of Republican votes for the package, but all the same, readers of The Washington Post would be much better served if the Op-Ed editors had devoted the space to someone who was both an economist and had a flair for putting economic matters in terms most people can understand. Brad Delong and Dean Baker are both available, so far as I know.

But even addressing the substance of Broder’s writing, it’s still an incredibly lazy formulation. Democrats don’t need overwhelming Republican support to pass any of those things, they need a grand total of 2 Republican supporters in the Senate. And when Al Franken is seated they’ll need just one. To that end, there are 4 Northeastern Republicans in the Senate in states that Obama won (Snowe and Collins in Maine, Specter in Pennsylvania, and Gregg in New Hampshire), and two of them (Specter and Gregg) are up for re-election in 2010. Obama carried New Hampshire, a state where McCain was certainly a popular figure, by 9% this past year, and he won Pennsylvania, where McCain-Palin devoted nearly all of their resources over the last month of the campaign, by 11%. You don’t think Specter and Gregg are fairly eager to find ways to be perceived as cooperating with Obama for their own sakes?

Also, at one point in the column Broder cites the non-existant CBO report, at least a week after that talking point had been discredited. Why oh why…?

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Brooks and the Problem With “Stimulus”

Friday, January 30th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Writing in today’s New York Times, David Brooks criticizes the stimulus package in probably the most irritating way possible:

In a fateful decision, Democratic leaders merged the temporary stimulus measure with their permanent domestic agenda — including big increases for Pell Grants, alternative energy subsidies and health and entitlement spending. The resulting package is part temporary and part permanent, part timely and part untimely, part targeted and part untargeted.

It’s easy to see why Democrats decided to do this. They could rush through permanent policies they believe in. Plus, they could pay for them with borrowed money. By putting a little of everything in the stimulus package, they avoid the pay-as-you-go rules that might otherwise apply to recurring costs.

But they’ve created a sprawling, undisciplined smorgasbord, which has spun off a series of unintended consequences. First, by trying to do everything all it once, the bill does nothing well. The money spent on long-term domestic programs means there may not be enough to jolt the economy now (about $290 billion in spending is pushed off into 2011 and later).

This, to put it mildly, is the sort of lazy, semi-romanticized, junior high thinking that’s dangerously infected out pundit class. Long story short; not everything is going to have the increasing returns of infrastructure development, new technology, or retrofitting buildings. You can’t put all your money to one thing, or to one industry, because then you’d just be propping up those places. Indeed, many appropriations are just going to be about getting money into the economy, and that’s ok. After all, it was Reagan who said “the best welfare program is a job,” and there’s at least something right in that formulation. In this case, the most effective “stimulus” in the short run (which really should be understood more as stabilization, but that doesn’t sound as good I suppose) is stemming the tide of job losses, and keeping people working. That keeps them earning a paycheck, paying their bills, and consuming a certain amount.

Add in the fact that the rest of Brooks column reads like it could have been written by any generic Republican in the last 15 years, and this isn’t exactly Brooks in top form.

Also, no mention of the fact that the CBO report he based his column on last week doesn’t exist. Shocking.

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Stimulus Pass

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

The House just passed the stimulus package 244-178. 12 Democrats joined every single Republican in voting no.

Politically speaking, I think Republicans just got rolled like they haven’t been rolled in decades. On the one hand, their unanimity provides a chance to remind everyone that, especially in the House, they don’t matter. After all, the bill passed by 56 votes without support from any of them. On the other hand, Democrats have an opening to use their opposition against them. After all, Obama himself lobbied House Democrats to give Republicans what they wanted on their specific spending objections, and they still refused to vote for the bill. Don’t be surprised to see the contraceptive measure and the mall renovation back in the package after the conference committee, or coming back up later in the year, as well as lots of reminders from the White House about Republicans didn’t live up to their end of the bargain.

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