Monday, February 09, 2009

"My Kingdom for a Horse....."

The current stimulus package making it's torturous way through both houses of Congress is like the saying..... what do you get when you ask a committee to put together a horse? A camel.

Nothing wrong with a camel, but the country needs a horse to start pulling us out of the economic ditch.

Paul Krugman's asks today in "The Destructive Center" (NY Times) .... "What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

"A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished."

The centrists in the Senate just created a camel, and President Obama seems unable, or unwilling, to fix it.

Krugman opines, "One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending.

"The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.

"On the other hand, the centrists were apparently just fine with one of the worst provisions in the Senate bill, a tax credit for home buyers. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this the 'flip your house to your brother' provision: it will cost a lot of money while doing nothing to help the economy.

"All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering."

It was Obama who lifted the flap so the "lower taxes" camel could poke it's nose into his change-we-can-believe-in tent. We are in this economic mess because the GOP rich-get-richer trickle-up policies cost trillions and didn't work.... and according Pulitzer-winning economist Krugman and many others, this camel of a bill isn't the economic horse we need now.

MSNBC's Chuck Todd puts a fine point on this today in his "First Read" posting.... many ask just "how the Obama White House and the Democratic committees allowed themselves to get worked over by the Republicans.... how did a Republican Party that had turned a budget surplus into a projected trillion-dollar deficit get away with becoming paragons of fiscal responsibility? "

Krugman points out, "After all, many people expected Mr. Obama to come out with a really strong stimulus plan, reflecting both the economy’s dire straits and his own electoral mandate.
Instead, however, he offered a plan that was clearly both too small and too heavily reliant on tax cuts.

"Why? Because he wanted the plan to have broad bipartisan support, and believed that it would. Not long ago administration strategists were talking about getting 80 or more votes in the Senate."

There's a lesson for Obama here. His high-minded attempt to build a bipartisanship tent ran into the "loyal" opposition's ideological take-no-prisoners stone wall.

Has Obama learned this lesson?

Evidently not. This weekend he was busy trying to saddle this unwieldy stimulus camel.... "Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands, the scale and scope of this plan is right,” he declared on Saturday.

As Krugman laments.... "No, they didn’t, and no, it isn’t."

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