The Second Most Important Vote of the Session

Eric Massa, and most other Democrats, voted for the economic stimulus package. All Republicans voted against.

Since the Senate bill is different from the House version, there will be another vote on the bill after it goes through conference. Swing-district Republicans who voted against this bill will probably vote for the "compromise" bill, and they'll highlight some change or other that supposedly tipped their hand.

John Boehner has apparently convinced endangered Republicans that this is a clever strategy. Randy Kuhl, a Boehner protegee, used it a few times on tough votes in the previous session. I've always felt that it was too clever by half.

Voters aren't moved by technicalities on tough legislation, and this bill is one of the biggest gut-checks to come around in recent memory. Our country is in big trouble, and we're facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Either you're for stimulating the economy with massive spending, or you're not. The bullshit expenditures that Republicans are bloviating about on talk radio (e.g., money for STD's !!) are nothing in comparison to the totality of this $800+ billion package. A few little additions or deletions are simply window dressing.

I think voters will see this for what it is: Republicans betting against the economic well-being of their country in hopes of a political advantage. I'm sad to see it, and I'm sad to say it, but I can come to no other conclusion.


forget the STD's what about this list of pork

$1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years;
$2 billion for child-care subsidies; Hire the people getting unemployenet to do watch the children
$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts; I have a soft spot for this one and would like ot see it
$600 million more for the federal government to buy new cars. Uncle Sam already spends $3 billion a year on its fleet of 600,000 vehicles.
$400 million for global-warming research. Al Gore made 150 Million let him pay for it, many think its a hoax anyways.
$2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. Thats a sly way of saying plant trees.
$650 million for digital TV conversion coupons.
$81 billion for Medicaid,
$36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits,
$20 billion for food stamps
$83 billion for the earned income credit for people who don't pay income tax.
$54 billion will go to federal programs that the Office of Management and Budget or the Government Accountability Office have already criticized as "ineffective" or unable to pass basic financial audits.
$6 billion to subsidize university building projects

All good causes but hardly stimulus. Most of these should be debated in a methodical process, not something that the sky is going to fall if not done in 3 weeks. We heard that last october and it didn't work then either. If just pure spending is stimulous let citibank buy that plane for $50 million. Lets redesign all the offices not just John Thanes, look how many carpenters we can put to work.

Sadly its the democrats playing politics with our financial future buying votes. Maybe you should consider the democrats trying to create a lasting political power as a conclusion. Its not like it never crossed their minds.

Two general points:

1. Stimulus efforts of the size of this bill are going to be ugly and contain a lot of spending that one group or other doesn't like. Most economists that I've heard, even conservative ones, agree with the Keynesian strategy of more government spending to offset the lack of personal/corporate spending in a serious recession like this one.

2. House Republicans had a seat at the table to hammer out a compromise on this bill. They made no good-faith effort to do so. Boehner announced that his caucus would vote no on the bill on the morning before the meeting that he demanded (and got) with President Obama.

On the specifics, I'm sure there's a lot of spending in that bill that would make me roll my eyes. But most of your examples don't bother me in the least. Here's three:

1. Medicaid/Food Stamps/Unemployment: Of course we're going to have to spend more on these when there are more people out of work. Also, an increase in unemployment benefits and food stamps is about the most stimulative spending I can think of. Unlike a tax rebate, which many people put in the bank, unemployed people will spend their unemployment check and poor people will spend their food stamps.

2. Amtrak: Subsidizing transportation is what government does. Every road is subsidized by the taxpayer. Gas taxes only pay a fraction of that amount. There's nothing wrong with the government putting money into transportation that doesn't involve a car on a road.

3. Global warming research: What's your alternative - just assuming there's no problem and putting your head in the sand?

let me quickly respond to your two points that look like five.

1. there has never been a bill this size of course its going to look ugly. Remember the mantra no pork? there are appropriations that spend as little 16% this year. Why? Because they want to stimulate the economy next year an election year. Then the inflation that will ruin us will not happen until after 2010. If that is not cynical politics I don't know what is. The big Kahuna of conservative economics Martin Feldman does not ike the idea.

2. The main message that came out of that meeting was Obama telling Boehner "I won you lost shut up"

1. Most people I know would spend a tax cut just as quickly I know 90% of my take home check gets spent immediatly.

2. They can still subsidize amtrak Sell it to a private concern and subsidize the tracks and even the trains. The thing is a government turkey that has never made a dime. Should the government subsidize Greyhound bus lines? How about airlines? I think a private concern managing it could make money and then get it off the taxpayer roles.

3. What is global warming gonna cause humanity to end in the next three weeks? If ever ther was something that should be in a spearate bill and debated on its own merits its this. While there are environmental causes there is also so much politics in this cause because of Gore and his hypocracy on it . I hardly see that as emergency. Thats the problem with all of the pork. It's not emergency.

Again if naked spending to pay off you voting bloc is the solution then let citibank buy that $50 million plane. At least the airline industry will get some jobs out of it.

1. You mean Martin Feldstein. Martin Feldman is a British comic. Feldstein was on the news hour last night, and his take on the stimulus package was mixed. But he certainly didn't say that it was all a political plot to goose the 2010 election. Most analyses that I've seen predict a slowdown well into 2010, so it makes sense that we have a stimulus package that pays out in 2010.

2. There were a lot of accounts from Republicans at that meeting who felt that Obama listened to them. Also, for example, he cut out the contraceptive funding that was one of Boehner's chief complaints when he appeared on the Sunday morning news shows. What did Boehner offer up in compromise?

1. Here's your man Feldstein from last night:

MARTIN FELDSTEIN: Well, it's a plan of about $400 billion a year for two years. Now, not all of that $400 billion is going to turn into additional spending. A lot of the tax cuts, we know on the basis of what happened with the tax rebate last year, are basically going to be saved. So they're not going to add to spending.

It's just a fact that the best way to get some money spent now is to give it to people who don't have a lot of money. Tax cuts don't get it done.

2. You need to study up on Amtrak and transportation policy in general. Amtrak was formed because private railroads couldn't make money moving passengers, mainly because of highly subsidized competition from private autos, buses and airplanes. Many of its routes are on tracks that are owned by other railroads. So, just making it private won't magically make it profitable, and the private company would still have the issue of sharing tracks with freight trains.

Also, Greyhound is a beneficiary of government subsidy -- the roads its buses travel upon are highly subsidized. This is also true of airlines: airports are constructed with money from local, state and federal governments, and the aviation taxes pay only a portion of the costs.

3. You need to separate a scientific inquiry into global warming from the fruits of that inquiry. Al Gore is not going to be doing the science. He's a red herring that distracts from the real issue. Reasonable people don't shut down science because some politician made political hay out of some scientific research.

BTW, that Citibank jet was a Dassault Falcon, made in France. Are you saying that you want to stimulate the French aircraft industry?

Obama said during the campaign he was going to go through the federal budget line item by line item and weed out programs that had outlived there usefulness. Maybe he should do the same thing with this stimulus bill. This bill does nothing but grow the federal bureaucracy, entrench the political elite, and worst of all, burden my children and my children's children with having to pay for it.

I don't really disagree with this. We're at lesser of two evils time. One evil is government spending, debt, and government growth. The other is recession turning into a long depression.

I pick the first evil, but I'm not excited about the choice.

Let's not denigrate Marty Feldman I do remember him, he was a funny guy that made a lot of sense.

Yes thank you I meant Feldstein
in the op ed on the washington post he calls it "An $800 Billion Mistake"

Didn't you favor the contraceptive bill? It was a bone (no pun intended) to the republicans. The meat they wanted was some more tax cuts. 15-20% of the bill in tax cuts would have placated them That is there big issue.

I am not saying shut down the science. The only one who is saying that is Gore Himself. "The Debate is over". I am saying it should not be part of a stimulus. I would rather send a direct check to the people you are talking about. Then we can fund the science in a separate bill. The american people have a right to debate the costs as well as the science. The left has so completely bought into this that they treat is as a science law not a theory. Because it is so political it is reasonable to look at it with a skeptical eye. Maybe the best thing Gore could do is back off. His pedantic tree like performace in front of congress this week is the stuff that gives's bullwinkle plenty of material.

BTW No I am not saying stimulate the French economy (although years of the same socialism we are looking to create has caused even bigger problems there) The point I am making is raw spending is no more the answer than raw tax cuts.

Look Rotten I am not opposed to a stimulous, God knows we need it. I think we could do it more measured. I think an 800+ billion dollar bill that much of the spending won't happen at all this year should be looked at in more than 3 weeks. We did that in October and in just created more headaches. Why not get a quick $200-300 billion (we say that like its pocket change) pure stimulous spending package out there and debate some of these other issues during the next 6 months.

On Feldstein: I agree that he wants the spending re-targeted. But he also disagrees that the tax cuts are going to be stimulative. So he certainly isn't endorsing the Republican's "plan" (such as it is - there was no real alternative plan presented by House members).

On compromise: Your party is wanting to have it both ways. First, they want to make much ado about the contraceptive bill to get headlines, which Boehner did on Sunday. Then, when Obama takes that provision out, it's "a bone". Either it's significant enough to whip up a frenzy, or it isn't. When you're a serious opposition party, you highlight issues that are important for compromise. If you're a bunch of ankle-biters, then you find stuff to bitch about. Picking contraception as the outrage of the week showed that Boehner was just looking to make noise, not compromise.

As for the 15-20% more tax cuts, they aren't stimulative (as your #1 expert says) and they targeted the population that Obama promised not to cut taxes. Legislative compromise driven by the minority doesn't compromise core principles. Smart minorities pick off stuff that a majority of the population agrees on.

Look Rotten I am not opposed to a stimulous, God knows we need it. I think we could do it more measured.

I think we can agree on this point. I don't think this package is ideal by any measure. But I can only pick from two alternatives: what the Democrats offer, and what the Republicans offer. Given that choice, I pick the Democrats' alternative.

This country needs a smart, hard-working opposition party. Instead of focusing on dog-whistle bullshit like contraceptives, Republicans needed to pick some billions that could use further debate, and present them to Obama as a compromise package. This did not happen. There was no real compromise package presented by House Republicans. Their strategy from the start was just to vote No and make noise. We'll see what happens in the Senate.