Political Diatribes

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Archive for the ‘Stimulus’ Category

What should the Stimulus package have looked like?

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on February 18, 2009

From this post on Hot Air, we see the following attempt at a reasonable stimulus package…  from  Democrat.  From the article they quote:

Rep. Walt Minnick, a freshman Democrat from Idaho, is pushing a better idea: The Strategic Targeted American Recovery and Transition Act (START).

Minnick is a member of the Blue Dog caucus of occasionally conservative Democrats. His START plan is a $170 billion “bare bones” pure stimulus approach that would put $100 billion immediately into the pockets of low- and middle-income Americans, then use the other $70 billion for basic infrastructure projects that create jobs. START requires that all funds not spent by 2010 be returned to the Treasury. START also stops stimulus spending when the nation’s Gross Domestic Product increases in two of three previous quarters, and all START payments are required to be posted on a public website.

Minnick introduced START as an alternative – just in case the legislative process stalls out, says press secretary John Foster. As one of the brave 11 Democrats who voted against Pelosi’s stimulus bill, Minnick explained to folks back home that he opposed the speaker’s version because it was so “Christmas-treed up” with wasteful spending, like $300 million for golf carts. Foster told The Examiner that the House leadership encourages members to do what’s best for their districts, so there has been no backlash. We’ll see how long that lasts.

This was posted on another board that I frequent. In general, liberals, independents, and conservatives all seemed to agree that this was a preferable approach. That is not to say that conservatives liked the stimulus package, period, but that if we are going to do such a thing, the above approach at least seems somewhat reasonable.

Which begs the question as to why Congress felt the need to push through such a huge bill? In my opinion, something 25% the size probably gains a ton of political capital from both sides of the aisle. The conservatives would have had much less to point to as being egregious, and liberals could always say they only did what was absolutely necessary, with an eye towards doing more if needed in the future.

It seems like it was a very risky political maneuver, because the price tag is so immense that now people absolutely expect that it had better work – or else. And most people, even on the liberal side who see certain merit in the bill, all seem to agree that there is too much spending on unnecessary projects.

Some comments from others discussing the proposal:

I like the plan. – a liberal

Sounds good. I especially like the 1 year time horizon and automatic stop when economy recovers. – leans left

it is not so bad but very unlikely that a Democratic House would have voted for such a plan without loading it up with earmarks or other pet projects. Sometimes people forget the reality is that the House is very Democratic and not beholden to Obama….. – independent who voted for Obama

I’m not convinced that any stimulus bill will actually do what it purports. But this one’s a helluva lot cheaper (only $170 billion!), so, hey, I’ll sign on. – conservative

If I only get to choose between the two plans this one wins hands down. conservative

This would pass if only you added in 530B of tax cuts so that the GOP would sign onto it as well without threatening to fillibuster in the senate. there’s always one in the bunch…

Discussion points:
Would the GOP have still forced tax cuts into a much more modest proposal? Was the goal of the GOP to maximize tax cuts and minimize spending regardless of the amount? Or was the GOP’s goal to make Obama spend political capital and take ultimate responsibility for the outcome?

I think the GOP would have been very reasonable with a counter-proposal like this given the fact that it is in the context of an $800 billion proposal. It’s probably true to say that there are separate goals here: ideological and political. The ideological position would be to implement true stimulative tax cuts even on a smaller bill like this. That is because conservatives don’t look at tax cuts as a “cost” to government. It is not the government’s money to begin with, so how can it be a cost? Obviously, there is a revenue implication. It may sound, then, like splitting hairs, but the differentiation is important on ideological grounds. But I dispute that the amount is not key. There was so much in the $800 billion plan that goes against the grain of even moderate conservatives that it had to be opposed on ideological grounds. And inclusion of tax cuts is encouraged on ideological grounds.

But there probably is also truth is the political reality – especially given the ideological concerns – that opposing the bill is the better political position to take. Not that we want it to fail – I don’t and I think all Amercia hopes it works. But we think it will fail. Sorry about that, but I don’t see any way of this turning things around. In fact, I think it makes things worse. So, there is no way in heaven I’m going to support this thing. If I’m wrong, it’s good for the country, and even if I supported it Obama and the Democrats would get credit anyway. If I’m right, then I don’t get dragged down with them when people start revolting against their ideological positions. So, the best political move is to make this whole thing Obama’s.

Probably the most maddening part of this whole thing is that there was zero need for a great deal of this bill to be all lumped together. This bill could have been split up into numerous packages that could have been voted on separately. Each part could be assessed on both the merits of the idea and the stimulative impact. Obviously, the reason this didn’t happen was so Congress could spend countless billions on pet projects that they have wanted for years and have not been able to get. Gee, what a surprise that the Dems would take advantage of an economic downturn to enact this piece of legislation that is not what it was presented as…

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