Giving Up Before a Fight

Are Senate Democrats signaling their willingness to cut stimulus spending to avoid a filibuster? It sure looks that way:

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.

Ryan Avent asks the obvious question:

… do they lack 50 votes or 60? And if they have 50 but not 60, then why not at least make the opposition work for the bones Democrats are preparing to throw them, by actually filibustering.

David Leonhardt of the New York Times raises the interesting point that the longer Congress waits to pass a stimulus package, the higher the cost of that stimulus package will be — because the economy is getting worse. Which is ironic, given that GOP leaders in the Senate are complaining that the bill as it stands is too expensive.

When all is said and done, Leonhardt agrees with Tim Geithner, who said, “In a crisis of this magnitude, the most prudent course is the most forceful course.”

The odds that, a year from now, Mr. Obama and Congress will regret not having been more aggressive seem bigger than the odds that they’ll think they overdid it. Why not redouble efforts to find a few other ways to spend money quickly? More than 50 mass transit agencies across the country are cutting services or raising fares, and the stimulus bill does nothing for them.

Today, the Obama administration can still blame the Bush administration for the economy’s condition. Next year, fairly or not, that won’t be so easy.

Democrats won control of both the White House and Congress, but “lost control of the debate“:

Watching the reaction from Republicans and most news outlets, I keep thinking of an analogy. There’s a nine-alarm fire, and Obama’s the fire chief. He wants to send the cavalry, hoping to save lives and contain the fire from spreading out of control, while simultaneously taking fire-prevention steps for the future. Soon, Republicans start wondering if 2% of the tools on the fire-engines are entirely necessary for fighting the fire. Democrats think nine trucks is an excessive number, and maybe if Obama sent seven, it’ll make Republicans happier. (Said Sen. Ben Nelson, “I don’t know, hundreds of gallons of water sounds like an awful lot.”)

Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, and Joe Scarborough try to convince the community that Obama is making a big mistake trying to put out a fire with water, which is just socialism in disguise.

Conservatives want to know why Obama won’t just give people a tax cut, so the public can buy fire-extinguishers, axes, and Dalmatians of their own. The Washington Post runs four op-eds from Amity Shlaes, arguing that Fire Chief Roosevelt overreacted during the last nine-alarm fire, and it would have gone out on its own if he’d just left it alone.

D-day’s scathing analysis:

If that [trimming the package by up to $200 billion] comes out of spending and not tax cuts – and since Republicans and moderate Democrats are driving the boat on this one I assume it will – then the bill will be completely unable to accomplish its goals on job creation. It may provide a temporary boost, but won’t do what’s needed to stop the bleeding. The recession will continue for years and maybe slip into depression.

Keep in mind that, when pressed, Republicans can’t come up with more than 1% or 2% of the bill to criticize as “pork.” All of those could be taken out – I don’t think it’s necessary, but hypothetically – and the bill would essentially be exactly the same in size. So to eliminate enough spending to actually cut the bill, you’d have to get rid of things that would create lots of jobs and actually leave something tangible for the future, whether in health care or education or energy or infrastructure. This is what Republicans are demanding, because they wouldn’t dare slash the tax cuts.

Meanwhile, the same people who say they don’t want the bill larded up with things that aren’t germane want to use it to lower mortgage rates to 4% and give giant tax incentives to homebuyers, reinflating the housing bubble and hoping everyone can just get to the next election cycle on its back. This is serious lunacy, and it’s infected both parties. We have to fix the housing crisis, which is very central to the overall meltdown, and in particular stop foreclosures (which most of the Democratic plans try to do). But reinflating the bubble at a time when houses aren’t at the price they historically should be is mountains of stupid.

The upshot is that this bill, with the entire goal of stopping a careening disaster in the economy and putting people to work, is seriously off the rails. And I’ve got to say, a lot of it is because the Obama Administration isn’t answering the critics with any kind of force or action plan. Now the job numbers for January due out on Friday – which could be astronomically bad – will create more of a sense of urgency, but that won’t create action on Washington unless people are knocking at the gates. …

That’s right, and you know why? Because none of the legislators who are voting on this package — Republicans OR Democrats — are feeling the pain of this disastrous economy. Take John McCain, for example. He has come up with an “alternative” stimulus package that costs $445 billion. That’s 50% less than the current Democrat version. Of course, McCain will claim that his version will be even more effective at stimulating the economy than the Democrats’ version, and of course, that’s sheer idiocy. But why should that matter to Sen. McCain? I mean, look at the guy. He has so many homes he’s lost count. He and his wife are wealthy beyond what most of us can even imagine. What does he care if a middle-aged woman with a disability cannot pay her rent and is terrorized at night by fears of being homeless? What does he care if a mother and father in Wilmington, Ohio, have to pull their son out of college because they no longer have the money to pay for it? What does he care if that young man is the first one in his family to go to college, and his mother breaks down trying to talk about it because it meant something to her that cannot be put into words to know that her son would realize dreams she and her husband never had, and now he wouldn’t, either?

One Response to “Giving Up Before a Fight”

  1. Chief says:

    Obama is not being bold enough.

    Obama is not being forceful enough.

    Steam roll the obstructionist bastards.

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