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Samuelson on the Stimulus

February 23, 2009

This op-ed by Bob Samuelson “Obama’s Stunted Stimulus” catches pretty close to exactly my thoughts, from support for a large stimulus to the criticism that Obama let Democratic politics get in the way of doing the right thing for a country as a whole.

I should have done a post on the encouraging signs I did see as Obama took office – notably in the area of national defense and his economic team. I even like Hillary as Sec State- given the givens of course. Obama seemed intent on at least getting competent people in to do the job.

So I was completely taken aback by Obama’s decison to have congressional Democrats write this stimlus bill. Why? Why would he do that now of all times? When Obama’s ratings are so high and Congress’ so low? Why have Lawrence Summers talk about a stimulus that is “temporary, targeted and timely” and then give it to Nancy Pelosi- behind closed doors to boot? I didn’t expect much, but I certainly expected better than this. What’s happened is an outrage. Samuelson:

Obama’s political strategy stunts the impact from what it might have been. By using the stimulus for unrelated policy goals, spending will be delayed and diluted. There’s another downside: “Temporary” spending increases for specific programs, as opposed to block grants, will be harder to undo, worsening the long-term budget outlook.

Etc. Not that I’m particularly happy or inspired by the congressional Republicans, who seem almost formless and nameless in their ephermeral nothingness of an oppostion. Didn’t one of them advocate a capital gains tax reduction? ON WHAT?

It’s an extremely difficult political situation, so I really don’t want to be too hard on anyone- Obama, the Republicans, everyone- but I just don’t see anyone really rising above the fray. We really need that right now.

It’s hard for me to even see how the Republicans could contribute much. As someone else pointed out, the political calculus is not good for them: support the stimulus, and Obama gets the credit if it succeeds; support it and it fails, the get the blame (it would have worked if it weren’t for that AMT reduction and the $11 a week in tax reductions). The only one that makes sense politically is to oppose, oppose, oppose. In a principled way, at least.

Gerard relates 7 promises broken in the passage of this legislation. While I think you could quibble with them, I think they are entirely fair.

The president really needs to step up the plate and stop campaigning and be president of all the United States. He can blame the Republicans all he wants, but if the market continues the way is, he will not be able to blame them. He needs to succeed because America needs to succed, and if he fails we go down together.

For that reason, s I asked in another context, would it be intemperate to pray for his success?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Tuttle permalink
    March 1, 2009 2:55 pm

    Obama’s trillions dwarf Bush’s ‘dangerous’ spending.

    Pelosi and Reid called Bush’s budgets “dangerous” and “unpatriotic,” but with Obama, they’ve changed their tune.

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