Next Time, Think About Baseball

I’ve been marinating over this battle for the gargantuan stimulus bill. The merits of the bill, I no longer even have a desire to argue; economists tend to think it’s a good idea, all of it is way over my head. I’ve also been trying to figure out what President Obama’s game here is as well. I mean, I know how I would have played this thing. Granted, I didn’t also just get elected President of the United States, so I’ll cede some ground there.

From the moment it was clear that the Repblicans were going to stand in resolute opposition to the stimulus bill, the way I would have played it would have been simple. Okay, fine, you aren’t going to vote for the compromise bill? No problem, you have a choice, vote for the compromise bill, or I go back to the Dems and tell them to write the bill THEY want and we’ll pass it without you.

This comes with risk. The fact of the matter is, progressives can only guess that they have the right ideas on how to build a stimulus bill and that it will work. Without any Republican support whatsoever, the fate of that bill becomes irrevocably tied to the party, and should it fail, should 2010 come along and the economy isn’t even showing a sign of warming up again, then what we will see is a Democrat in grave danger of being a one term president (running against, I shit you not, Sarah Effing Palin), and serving out the last two years of his first term with either a very narrow majority, or if luck is really down, a minority.

If it succeeds, yay for us. If it fails, just go ahead and grab your ankles folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

In any case, the Republicans have done what Republicans are good at, towing the line in the name of obstructionism. This bill definitely rests on the shoulders of the new president and the Democratic majority.

But one wonders if this display of opposition may not have come a little too strong and a little too soon? The symbolism behind the event can’t be overlooked. A new President comes into office, he and his party make concessions on a bill that there is no need to concede ground on given their strength, he even goes to the Hill in order to personally whip up at least a few Republican votes, and, as the saying has already been coined, the Republicans “smack his outstretched hand.” The President who came into office on the hopes of ending partisan bickering and grid lock is met with an enormous show of partisan grandstanding.

On one hand, this puts the onus on the Republicans to make their case to the American people that they didn’t just engage in the kind of pettiness that helped usher them out of power in the first place. But also, this strikes me as playing their hand too soon, getting a little premature with the, um, dog and pony show. This has set the stage for at least the first portion of the President’s first term. He TRIED to be bipartisan, far more than his predecessor by any measure, and all he got in return was a nice big middle finger for his efforts.

It would take far less political skill than the president has at this point to turn the Republicans into the bad guys, and further, I don’t think President Obama will suffer too big of a political blow if he decides not to extend his outstretched hand that much anymore.

19 Responses to “Next Time, Think About Baseball”

  1. gcotharn says:

    A new President … and his party make concessions on a bill that there is no need to concede ground on given their strength

    IMO, the middle of the nation doesn’t look and see “concessions”.

    I represent the normal inattentive voter on this issue. I’ve been busy and inattentive. My impression:

    The only thing I’ve learned of Barack making concessions on was something to do with family planning clinics. If he’s made concessions on other stuff, it hasn’t been well enough publicized to reach my inattentive ears. The inattentive electorate like me mainly sees a gigantic orgy of spending which is justified by “crisis” yet has little to do with crisis. We notice false advertising. We notice Barack/Pelosi/Reid are not selling the bill based on it’s merits as policy. They are selling it based on “crisis”, yet they are pushing a bill which is not designed to cure a crisis. We conclude they have no faith in their ability to sell their ideas, and are instead trying to put one over on us.

    I’m not trying to debate this bill. I’m ignorant about this bill. I’m saying I’ve been inattentive, as most voters are, and the above is the impression I’ve gotten from the media reporting around this issue. I doubt that most of the electorate see a POTUS who has made concessions. Rather, most of the middle class working electorate see a giant telephone pole coming at their and their childrens’ anuses. They see Barack/Pelosi/Reid blithely and deceptively calling the telephone pole an economic savior. The electorate’s bull@#$% detectors are more and more being activated.

    If Barack/Pelosi/Reid want America to see they have made concessions, they’ve got to publicize such concessions much better.

  2. Kathy says:

    You admit that you have been “inattentive” and that you are “ignorant about this bill,” then you do “most Americans” the courtesy of assuming they are all just as inattentive and ignorant as you are. You don’t know about any concessions Obama has made, you tell us, because you haven’t been paying attention and because you are ignorant about the bill. Then you suggest that all of this is somehow Obama’s and the Democrats’ fault, rather than yours. If you choose to pay no attention and be ignorant about this legislation, how is it Obama’s fault that you “see no concessions” in the legislation? How can you see anything factual about the legislation if you are inattentive and ignorant about it? How is any given action on Obama’s side going to change the fact that you are inattentive and ignorant?

    You’re not just ignorant, Greg. You’re stupid. And I don’t say that lightly. You have been commenting here for a long time, and I have tried mightily to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you have removed the doubt. You are stupid.

    You are democracy’s worst nightmare.

  3. tas says:

    …and I have tried mightily to give you the benefit of the doubt…

    I haven’t. 🙂 You’ve seen one troll, you’ve seen’em all.

  4. gcotharn says:

    I’m reporting my impressions from the vast middle, and from consuming mainly the major media for a while. I don’t think things are as clear cut to us hoi polloi as Kyle thinks they are. Maybe Kyle will find my impressions valuable to the conversation. Maybe not. But I gave my opinion in good faith, and without criticism of Kyle.

    Here’s some criticism, Kathy: you dislike the vast majority of Americans. Certainly you specifically believe I am stupid, yet you also have a vast and widespread dislike of your fellow citizens. You detest us – conservative, moderate, even many on the left side. You think we are stupid. You think the group of us are democracy’s worst nightmare. You are focused on me, yet your reaction is truly about something larger. Something which is not pretty. Something imbued through and through with insecurity and overt narcissism. I am a convenient focus and target. But your “stupid” opinion is not merely about me. And it is not something to be proud of. It is not a shining medal of glory. It is, instead, something which ought jolt you into a reassessment.

  5. Kathy says:

    Here’s some criticism, Kathy: you dislike the vast majority of Americans. Certainly you specifically believe I am stupid, yet you also have a vast and widespread dislike of your fellow citizens. You detest us – conservative, moderate, even many on the left side. You think we are stupid.

    Says the guy who says most voters are inattentive and ignorant.

  6. tas says:

    OK, voting time!: Should Public Troll #1 be ignored for the rest of eternity?

    A) Yes
    B) Hell Yes
    C) Troll who?
    D) I want pizza

  7. gcotharn says:

    Uh uh. I did not say most voters are ignorant. I implied (correctly, imo, as most voters are busy living their lives) that most voters are ignorant about this bill. Even tas claims some level of ignorance about this bill, and wishes it’s working provisions would be openly listed on the web.

    I have confidence in the wisdom of voters, of juries, of the first 500 people in the phone book. I have appreciation for their wisdom. You are projecting your own bias, and proving my point.

  8. Kathy says:

    All of the above. No mushrooms or anchovies on the pizza please.

  9. tas says:

    A Meatizza, then!

    Where I work, we have a pizza with pepperoni, chicken, ham, sausage, and meatballs on it. Mmmm.. I think the only thing worse for you is a Pizzera Uno’s deep dish, which is like 2300 calories. Of yummy flavored lard.

  10. I wrote my first post here in ages and I get 11 comments. I has a happy!

  11. Kathy says:

    NO HAM!!! Sorry, tas — me sorta semi-kosher. 😐

  12. And to be back on topic for just one moment, here’s something from Balloon Juice (

    “Obama’s going to the Hill to give the GOP a very public opportunity to say “no” to his first big attempt at bipartisanship. and he’s bringing along a bunch of cameras and reporters to document it.

    now, when McConnell says it’s all the Dems’ fault and that the talk of bipartisanship was a sham, there will be a lot of HD evidence to prove that he was lying.”

  13. Chess and checkers people, chess and checkers

  14. tas says:

    I take it you’re out on the Bacon Explosion too, Kathy?

    Dear bacon gods, Macswain.. I’m not quite sure what to think about the bacon explosion besides “I want a couple slices” and “I’ll have an elliptical runner tied to my feet a week after eating a Bacon Explosion”.

    Onto the bailout bill itself.. I do think Obama is playing chess with the Republicans here, Kyle. But he’s taking a lot of risks, too. If I were him, I would have increased funding for infrastructure repairs because that’s what will create jobs immediately. It’s not only the government’s task to create jobs right now, but it behooves the Obama administration to create them because jobs will pay for people’s mortgages. Since the outgoing Bush administration had to purchase Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government now owns so much mortgage securities that their going to eat the cost of those loans one way or another — either by paying money to create jobs, or just eating the losses when mortgages aren’t paid. The choice here is obvious.

    Which makes me wonder why only $30 billion of this massive bill is aimed at infrastructure repair. I know Obama needed to shore up state budgets (who could be running out of unemployment insurance funds at a bad, bad time) and social programs, and all of these are needed for a safety net that keeps recessions from plunging into depressions… But to cede the Republicans some ground here, these are not economic multipliers. Job creation is a huge multiplier — much more so then tax cuts. I mean, I’d love $500 from Obama.. That’s a couple of car payments! Which, of course, is what I’d put it towards; I imagine a lot of people would do such. And we’re not helping the economy.

    This year is going to be all about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, and jobs. Like I said, the government will have to pay for these mortgages one way or another. The best way is placing money towards job creation, thus improving the economy with purchasing; and thus creating a larger base to derive tax revenues from and start lowering the budget deficit.

    If this bailout bill doesn’t create enough jobs at first, Obama can play it as evidence that we need more investment in job creation like infrastructure repair. But Republicans are going to be on him like their dirty little minds are on Palin.

    All players here have placed their bets on how the bailout bill fares. This is high stakes politics, and as far as I’m concerned, both sides have each other checked. It all depends how the economy looks 12-18 months from now…

    As I’ve previously posted, I’m PO’ed by the big government/no change feel of this bill. I’d rather Obama went the FDR route and pushed multiple straight forwards acts through Congress, focusing the debate on the topic of each bill. A 600+ page bill like this, with some legislators seeming to throw crap in just for the hell of it, is ripe for useless attack. It has too many facets to be singled out for national debate.

  15. I can’t answer all the questions because, frankly, I’m feeling like roasted dog shit right now, and my surfing is of the, “god give me something to do so I can take my mind off of this nasty rattling cough” variety.

    But there are two points that I can sort of almost get too, neither probably to your satisfaction.

    Regarding infrastructure, one thing that you do bring up is that a lot of the bill is supposed to go towards shoring up state economies. If that is the case, than a lot of the stimulus money WILL be going to infrastructure just on a state by state level, for instance here in Virginia, one of the biggest state items is transportation. I have a vague recollection of Obama, or at least one of his advisors, actually mentioning this, filtering money so that states use it for infrastructure purposes.

    As for your last point, the only thing I have for that is that while doing this bill bit by bit as opposed to an omnibus package may be smarter, but not as politically viable. When Obama was sworn into office, the number one thing people wanted to see him do was something major on the economy. That kind of political situation practically demands a broad sweeping bill as opposed to a bunch of little bills (and for those in the cheap seats, the family planning thing didn’t go away, it got nixed from this bill, but the Prez is going to come back to that in its own separate bill a little bit later down the pike). Again, I can’t say for certain, but the necessity of the big bill is as much to appease the public (or for a more cynical term, political grandstanding) than anything else.

    I’m sure that setting up this particular power play probably also had something to do with it.

    Finally, on the Republican concessions, there is one happy outcome of that as well. Now we have two of the biggest Dems in congress saying, “fuck em” to the GOP; Kerry and Pelosi. At first I thought Obama was going to pull a tactic like I outlined above, but instead it is the Democrats in congress that have adopted the “fine, if you want to play that way…” stance.

    Thus, in the end, what you have is a Democratic President who still appears to be bi-partisan, a petulant Republican party, and a Democratic Party that very well just may be on the verge of finding its spine and learning how to govern with a mandate. That’s a rosy look at things anyway, and I think giving Obama credit for it all would be too cute by half so I won’t, but I’ll stick to what I said in the last commentscast episode: this president is going to push this country further from the right than any other president can, and he’s going to piss off a lot of liberals in the process.

    This is why I’m not doing a whole lot of commenting right now (and today would be a very big aberration from that, I admit), I’m currently in a “wait and see” stage. I don’t want the whole pie, I just want a piece, and from what I’ve seen so far, Obama is very good at getting a healthy piece once his endgame has been achieved.

    And I guess one more thing now that I think about it, you are right that all that will matter is where the economy ends up a year to a year and a half from now, and to be dead honest, by then, come what may, there’s a very good chance that no one will be talking about this stimulus package by then.

  16. Kathy says:

    Oh dear yes, bacon, definitely a no-no. I love it, but I don’t eat it.

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