Thoughts About The “Stimulus” Package

I‘ve been doing a lot of reading in the MSM and among pundits concerning this seemingly counter-intuitive “stimulus” package being rushed through Congress.

Thomas Oliver best sums up why I see it as “counter-intuitive”:

You read that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says about half the new administration’s $825 billion stimulus won’t kick in for another year or two. You read a list of projects included in the stimulus and it begins to seem more like old times. Less like a response to an economic emergency and more like pork and pet projects of the new ruling party.

The numbers are getting too large to wrap your mind around. A million, you understand. A billion, you’ve grown used to, although $700 billion here and $825 billion there strains your comprehension.

A trillion is a number from science fiction, having something to do with light years and space travel.

Yet, you’ve been told our federal budget deficit this year will be $1.2 trillion. Add in the bailout and the plans to rescue us, and they are speaking in a foreign language, using terms such as $2 trillion.

You try to ignore the fact that one day the taxman will want to collect on that debt.

And you can’t seem to shake the notion that if overreaching and overextending got us here, how does overreaching and overextending get us out? And if going where no stimulus has gone before isn’t overreaching and if increasing the deficit to $2 trillion isn’t overextending, then those words have no meaning.

And the “crisis” mentality that is driving all of this which requires we unthinkingly rush into executing a solution, any solution should terrify any thinking person:

Democrats said the current economic crisis did not allow time for public hearings on the legislation.

“This is as urgent as it gets,” said Representative Anna G. Eshoo, Democrat of California.

Really? According to economists, we’ve been in this recession for 17 months. Are we suddenly just getting to the crisis stage, or are we just in pure panic mode because we don’t know any better? I’ve found that people tend to panic when they’re overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. That is being born out by statements such as Eshoo’s. And, as Oliver points out, if time was taken to really look closely at this bill, the pork fat with which it is larded might get some unwelcome scrutiny. Of course the one area which will undergo immediate cuts is defense.

Meanwhile, President Obama made a trip to the Hill yesterday, ostensibly to craft bi-partisan support for this bill. Why? Because he wants to start a new era of bi-partisanship and put the era of political strife behind us?

Well, that’s the official line. But in reality, it is because he wants there to be bi-partisan blame if this fails. It is the Captain of the Titanic inviting the Republicans onto the bridge to help steer the ship just before they hit the iceberg.

As Ian Welch at HuffPo points out, Republicans in the House are absolutely unnecessary to the passage of this bill. If they all vote no, it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of Democrats for an easy majority. And while the Senate is more problematic, it really isn’t as problematic as it once was. So why is it so important to get Republicans on board?

However, it has been indicated that Obama wants to do more than barely pass the bill, he wants to pass it with substantial Republican support.

You bet he does. Political cover. Despite all his rhetoric, Obama is not a risk taker. And if there is blame to be had, he wants it to be shared as broadly as possible.

Thus you see the small concessions made to Republican hot button wedge issues like “family planning” and the like. This a few days after he issues an Executive Order for funding of abortions family planning overseas to the tune of 400 million dollars (a real priority in times of financial crisis, no?).

So what’s up with the Republicans after that meeting?

Obama devoted nearly three hours to separate closed-door meetings with House and Senate GOPers on 1/27, “an investment that is unlikely to result in new support for the relief package” (Murray/Kane, Washington Post, 1/28). The House will pass the bill, but Obama “is likely to fall short of getting the strong bipartisan consensus he wants.” Participants praised Obama’s outreach, “but afterward, few GOP lawmakers said they were ready to vote” for the plan (Lightman, McClatchy, 1/28). In other words, he won “compliments but few converts.”

That’s actually good news if they don’t cave. But, given their recent past, I have absolutely no confidence they won’t cave. The recent Republican penchant for self-destruction seems to have no limits.

Still, as Obama courted business leaders at the WH this morning, he “expressed confidence that Congress would pass a stimulus bill with strong bipartisan backing.” Obama: “I’m confident we’re going to get this passed” (Jackson/Wolf, USA Today, 1/28).

Of course it will pass. There’s very little doubt it will pass. It can almost pass without a single Republican vote. Almost.

If my math is correct, Dems have 57 in the Senate and two “independents”, both of whom caucus with the Democrats. If Ms. Gilliland, the new Democratic junior Senator from NY holds true to her “blue dog” roots, she might vote against it (but I’m guessing she won’t).

So Dems may actually need two Republican votes to get this travesty passed. I don’t have any doubt they will get those and probably a couple more. As usual, the Reps will provide the Dems with the political cover they so desperately crave on this one.

Then, when this all comes crashing down, we’ll hear the Democrats reminding everyone that it was the Republicans who provided the “critical backing necessary” to put the vote over the top.

You heard it here first.

Last, but not at all least, don’t you even begin to believe the slogan “timely, targeted, and temporary” that’s being chanted by the Dems.

It isn’t timely (it stretches out over multiple budget years), it isn’t targeted (it is loaded with pork and “relief” with little spent on “recovery”), and anyone who believes such a mix is “temporary” knows nothing about government or its programs. The Heritage Foundation gives you the quick and dirty lowdown on why there is nothing temporary about this package.

Smart Republicans are going to stay as far away from this mess of bill as they can. This is, indeed, a legislative hill to die on. And they do that by unanimously refusing to support it. The unfortunate thing is that won’t happen. And that’s not conjecture – that’s a promise. This will pass, and it will pass with Republican help. And you can take that to the bank, or bury it in the back yard if your prefer – that may be safer with the Dems in charge.

[Crossposted at QandO]

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