After much Congressional wrangling and pontificating, Obama was finally able to sign the economic stimulus bill yesterday.
What exactly does this mean?
Make no mistake: this bill is less than it could or should have been. Really, there should have been only two guiding principles in putting this bill together:
1) Figure out every worthwhile project on which public funds could reasonably be expended—public or private, state or federal, “shovel-ready” infrastructure or long-term investment.
2) Fund them all.
The only point at which to draw the line should have been the point at which the government literally couldn’t find anything left on which to spend the money. But that’s a long way past $790 billion. Honestly, does anyone really think another half-trillion or so in long-term debt at this point would do us anywhere near as much damage as letting this downward spiral continue due to “stimulus” that falls short of the mark? (I doubt that even GOP stalwarts believe that. They’re driven instead by a pure faith that government spending is simply a Bad Thing, whether it “works” or not, and thus a desire to shrink the bill enough to make sure it doesn’t work and thereby sway doubters.)
Still, what we’re left with is something that’s been trimmed back considerably in order to pass. And even so there are still Republicans willing to criticize whatever’s in there—from investments in high-speed rail (actually one of my favorite parts of the bill, an essential ingredient in giving this country a modern transit infrastructure), to proven programs like Head Start, to museums and parks, to the “state stabilization fund” that helps hard-pressed state and local governments meet their obligations instead of, y’know, laying off more teachers and firefighters. Even R&D in low-emissions power plants is apparently a bad thing. (Sen. Coburn’s lying about the so-called “earmark” on that particular item, BTW; it doesn’t exist.)
But what are the actual details? Most of the media coverage has been annoyingly vague. A little digging turned up some exceptions, though: ProPublica has an impressively detailed list of the bill’s spending items, itemized by category, and the Financial Times has a visual breakdown of how the House, Senate, and final compromise versions of the bill compare with one another.
Make no mistake: nothing is going to stop us from having a long, deep recession at this point. This bill is about cushioning the blow—mitigating the damage and putting the country in a position to bounce back a little more quickly. (Contrary to another widespread criticism, 75% of this bill’s funds will be spent within the next 18 months.) It’s all a matter of degree at this point… and while a greater degree would of course be better, all government spending has a stimulative multiplier effect, more so when it creates jobs.
GOP carping and obstructionism aside, let’s just hope we can all ride it out with a minimum of pain.
Addendum: Some confirmation of the GOP’s quixotic stance here, and its resulting credibility, from a couple of horses’ (umm…) mouths:
From Michelle Malkin: “Since when did it become the Republican Party’s top priority to “get things done”? … How about getting more things undone?”
From new RNC chair Michael Steele (in a somewhat different context—responding to a bizarre rant from Fox host Glenn Beck about how supporters have borne the stigma of being “racist hatemongers” for eight years yet not seen a payoff—but still crystal-clear truth): “You have absolutely no reason, none, to trust our word or our actions at this point.”Tags: economy, Obama, Republicans