Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What They Said.

Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson on the tiny arguments of the anti-stimulus GOP-
Republicans are threatening to derail the stimulus package because it is “wasteful.”

Now they’ve released a list of its 32 worst provisions — one of which ($400 million in STD prevention funding) has already been stripped.

The remaining 31 items total a bit over $18 billion. Now, $18 billion is serious money. Wall Street bonus money. And if we can save it, let’s. But some perspective: It’s just 2 percent of the $880 billion stimulus package. The Republicans are nibbling around the edges here.

And look at what the GOP considers to be pork in this bill:

The biggest line item is $6 billion for greening federal buildings.

This is stimulus at its best. Thousands of labor-intensive American jobs. Hundreds of millions in new orders to American manufacturers for windows and weather stripping and caulk and insulation. And it has the added bonus of saving taxpayers millions down the line: You reap long term savings in energy costs and have the added bonus of reduced greenhouse emissions. The only justification for calling this “wasteful” is Cheneyite ideology...

...For every arguably porky proposal — $88 million for a Coast Guard arctic icebreaker (wasteful because it’s soon to be obsolete?) — there are four undeniably stimulus-related-program-activities: $750 billion to build and furnish a real headquarters for Homeland Security, $500 million for state and local fire departments, $500 million for Mississippi River flood control projects, $200 million for computer centers at community colleges, a $125 million D.C. sewer-system upgrade, and on and on.

If this is the best the GOP can offer to justify its obstructionism, then the objective is clearly not about saving money.

It’s about forcing a popular president to expend political capital.

Paul Krugman, meanwhile, is frustrated with how stupid the debate over the stimulus is getting, and how the media is striving to present every argument as fair and equal, even when it's not-
Josh Marshall gives us David Broder talking about stimulus — which he says failed to achieve the predicted results the first time. It’s not clear whether he was referring to the TARP or the early 2008 stimulus package, but either way it’s a poor comparison. The TARP isn’t stimulus; the early 2008 package was 1/5 the size of the Obama proposal, and contained nothing but tax cuts.

But the part that really got me was Broder saying that we need “the best ideas from both parties.”

You see, this isn’t a brainstorming session — it’s a collision of fundamentally incompatible world views. If one thing is clear from the stimulus debate, it’s that the two parties have utterly different economic doctrines. Democrats believe in something more or less like standard textbook macroeconomics; Republicans believe in a doctrine under which tax cuts are the universal elixir, and government spending is almost always bad.

Obama may be able to get a few Republican Senators to go along with his plan; or he can get a lot of Republican votes by, in effect, becoming a Republican. There is no middle ground.

'Bipartisanship' = Doing everything the GOP way. Just ask our new Commerce Secretary.

And, finally, Josh Marshall from TPM has thoughts on both those matters, and calls out the President-
I've been hollering for days about this or that Republican's picayune complaints about the Stimulus Bill -- either line items for minuscule dollar amounts or bogus complaints about spending items that demonstrably will create lots of jobs and improve the economy over the long term. And now, according to the Post, President Obama is "frustrated by the public perception that the recovery bill was becoming laden with partisan pet projects."

The good news for the country and President Obama is that Obama remains extremely popular, the Stimulus Bill is pretty popular and the Democrats have big majorities in both houses of Congress. So there's little doubt his bill will pass Congress in something like its current form.

But there also shouldn't be much question why Republicans are having such a field day spreading disinformation and simple nonsense about this bill. We've heard virtually nothing over the last couple weeks about the big issue, which is that the economy is in severe free-fall because of a once-in-a-century financial crisis. And because of that, the federal government needs to step in with big short term spending to create jobs to see us through the crisis. Those jobs are needed in the short-term to prevent unemployment from getting out of hand and in the longer term to reshape the economy so that we're not dependent on recurrent bubbles to keep the economy afloat. This is an emergency jobs bill. And it costs a lot of money because we're in a deep crisis. But this basic point has disappeared almost entirely from the public debate...

...Look at what people are talking about and you wouldn't get the sense that we're actually in the midst of a major economic crisis that will likely send unemployment well into double digits if nothing is done quickly -- and a crisis that is in large measure the result of the economic policies that the Boehners and Cantors and McConnells are telling us, all the evidence to the contrary, will now save us. Everyone who's taking this situation seriously realizes that spending is the pivotal part of what the government needs to do to stabilize the economy in the face of this crisis. The multipliers for spending versus tax cuts simply leaves no question about that. ... The solid critiques from the right aren't about whether spending is needed but which types are most efficient.

Without a clear argument about why this whole exercise is necessary, it's inevitable that the debate will be ground down to the inconsequential minutiae which is the aim of its opponents. Big things need a president to argue for them.

Here's what I would like to see... President Obama has a primetime address within the next few days, in which he clearly and passionately makes a case for the stimulus package. He urges Americans to contact their representatives and Senators to support it, and explains why the criticism has no merits. Etc.

Basically, take the debate away from the cable pundits and GOP flunkies that serve as their frequent guests, and take it back for yourself. Engage the public, and call them to action. It's how he won the election, and how he'll win this battle too. Wining and dining GOP dead-enders is now clearly a waste of time. And we can't spare any.

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