Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Timely, Targeted, and Temporary

That’s the kind of stimulus, David Brooks reminds us, that the the president’s leading economic expert--the brainy Larry Summers--said we should believe in. What the House passed is none of the above--an undisciplined mess of jarring elements that will be worse than useless. Somebody might say that, of course, the Democratic Congress isn’t going to include an exit strategy from bigger government. But it’s also true that such self-indulgent packages are just characteristic of Congress, although, of course, never before on this scale. In this case, arguably, the cure might have been the executive leadership of a smart and popular president--with the help of his excellent expert.

Discussions - 1 Comment

The same smart guys who would tell Obama what the best stimulus would be, must also be telling him that it is not at all certain that even the best designed stimulus would do much to turn round the economy. It is just as likely that the economy is gonna do what it is gonna do. In any case it is uncertain whether Obama could even get a "clean" stimulus past Congress. Even if he did, it would estrange him from his own party and its allied interest groups while providing at best questionable short term help to the economy.

I think people are making a mistake in thinking that Obama is being rolled by Pelosi on the stimulus. Why do we think that the stimulus bill's expansions of government (large and small) are contrary to Obama's wishes? The stimulus is a liberal's wishlist and Obama is a liberal. As Peter Lawler pointed out on another post, the bill expands the number of Americans getting healthcare through the government. Surely Obama doesn't mind this.

If the stimulus passes in something like its current form and the economy improves, not only will Obama prosper politically but he will legitimize the expansion of government as the way out of economic trouble (regardless of the actual role of the stimulus). If the stimulus passes and the economy stays lousy, he still managed a huge expansion of government, paid off his party's base (which he will need more than ever), expanded his party's base by adding millions of new clients of the government, and would argue that things would have been even worse if the stimulus hadn't "saved" a whole bunch of jobs.

And thats not all, if Obama intervenes at the last moment and gets Congress to cut back the stimulus to a trim 750 billion, he gets to preside over a huge government expansion and gets some fiscal conservative points for restraining his kooky liberal brethren. Not a bad deal.

How bad is this situation? In 1993, Bill Clinton offered a 47 billion stimulus boondogle very similar to this one in kind if not in size. The GOP filibustred it to death in the Senate. The fact that the Obama stimulus is so much bigger (even accounting for inflation) and likely to pass is a good barometer of how far to the Left our politics has drifted.

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