Let's just be honest about the monstrosity labeled the stimulus package:
- It will not stimulate the economy in any where near the fashion the Democrats claim it will (if it manages to do so at all).
- It is not even really designed to do so.
- It is instead an attempt to grow the size and reach of government and cement it there for generations.
The Democrats have an unalterable belief that government is the solution to any and all problems. It also just so happens that those connected to or dependent on the government form the base of the party.
Spending is always the hammer and so any and all problems look like a nail to Democrats. And this economic crisis is no different. The differences is the scale. And that means, IMO, the GOP has found a hill to die on.
Ron Brownstein unintentionally makes the case for me. Details below.
Brownstein can barely contain his glee in putting Obama right into the role of the left's Reagan:
In 1981, President Reagan took office against a backdrop of economic distress and public apprehension. In that crucible, he forged congressional majorities for a massive reduction in federal income-tax rates. That "supply-side" economic agenda, which only months earlier attracted little support beyond a vanguard of conservative legislators and theorists, reshaped federal priorities for decades.
Now President Obama has taken office against a backdrop of economic distress and public apprehension. In this crucible, he is advancing a massive increase in federal spending on programs from education to infrastructure. That "public investment" economic agenda, which has struggled for years to win support beyond a vanguard of liberal legislators and theorists, could reshape federal priorities for years.
Sounds mostly like liberal boilerplate run through a mainstream media filter, right? But here is the meat of the issue:
To call the economic legislation now moving through Congress a stimulus bill obscures its full implications. The measure represents the most ambitious effort in decades to swell public spending on domestic priorities such as education, infrastructure, and scientific research that many Democrats consider the foundation stones of sustained prosperity.
The Democratic plan directs billions of dollars toward relief for unemployed workers and local governments, as well as billions more for short-term projects (road construction, energy rehab projects) meant to quickly generate jobs. But it also provides the biggest surge in long-term public investment since President Johnson's Great Society in the 1960s.
As many analysts have pointed out, even by their own Keynesian standards the majority of the package is either not aimed at immediate economic stimulus or will take too long to have an impact.
I will leave the more detailed economic analysis to others more capable, but suffice it to say this is just liberal big government on steroids. The left is always claiming that the way to grow the economy is to spend more money; and conveniently to do so on their patrons like unions and government funded social service agencies.
Anyone who has ever sat in a budget hearing knows that this spending is always sold as a way to save money. They always come with explanations of how a dollar spent now will save X dollars tomorrow (funny how the math never quite works out that way). And when these measure are tried to little effect the complaint is always not enough money.
Well, here is the mother of all chances to ratchet up the spending to the level the Dems have always wanted. But the problems isn't that this strategy won't jump start the economy (or it isn't the only problem).
No, what this is really about is using the crisis to declare the era of big government as far from over but alive and well and taking names. The plan is clearly to leverage Obama's image and popularity combined with the economic crisis to push through every possible project and issue on the Democratic wish list. And on a scale that is truly frightening. This isn't about economics but about ideology.
And the problem is that once down this path it will be incredibly hard to turn back. You simply can't put this kind of money in the pipeline and then return to normal. The history of government shows that programs and funding streams are nearly impossible to kill.
This is an attempt to throw a knock-out blow against the very idea of limited government. This is an attempt by the left to force through their pet projects in the name of an economic crisis and thus push the size and scope of government up to unprecedented levels forcing the GOP to fight on their turf for generations.
Even separating out the immediate relief for local governments and the unemployed, the recovery bill that the House approved funds about $280 billion in new public investments. That total represents "a greater commitment to public investment than Clinton was able to accomplish in all eight years," says Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research.
[. . .]
In normal times, Congress might never enlarge so many programs at once. But, as with Reagan's tax cut, the crisis-induced demand for action may suspend the normal laws of political gravity -- and allow Democrats to redirect federal priorities as boldly as Reagan did. "This is a once-in-a-25-year opportunity to [implement] a lot of our agenda," a top House Democratic aide says. Largely for that reason, most congressional Republicans are likely to resist the plan, no matter how many more tax cuts Obama offers them.
I know none of the above is all that insightful or shocking to most of you. And you can even argue that the public smells a rat as well given the sentiment polling seems to indicate.
And after the House vote maybe the GOP even gets it. But the challenge is using this moment to not only stop the Democrats from bankrupting the country, and sending us down the path of socialism in three easy steps, but in connecting with the public on this most basic of Republican ideas. We need to move from fired up activists to angry voters.
The GOP should be spending every waking moment figuring out how to communicate to the public that government can't spend its way out of this problem and that doing so will lead to even larger problems down the road. That Obama may sound like a pragmatist but that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are going to help him pass an ideological Christmas tree far to the left of most Americans.
This is the perfect time to hone a message that communicates why labor unions hurt the average voter; why massive government spending inherently involves waste, corruption, and the warping of the economy in ways that hurt consumers; why President Obama is trying to sneak in a leftist social agenda in the name of Hope, Change, and economic growth; etc.; etc.
The Democrats idea of how to grow the economy is to grow government. It won't work but if given the chance it might lock in a leviathan state for years to come. Any Republican worth his salt has got to be opposed to that effort.
Leadership now has the chance to fire up the base and attack the left without the burden of managing the government and without a president of their own party to defend. This is no time for nuance or weak compromise.
The Democrats are perilously close to over-reach. This is the GOPs sweet spot. Let's not mess it up. Every GOP Senator should vote no on the stimulus or any other massive bailout that comes down the pike.