Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 13, 2009
POLITICS: Barack Obama's Gift To Conservatives

President Obama, like many presidents before him, would like to have it both ways: get broad bipartisan support for his domestic agenda without compromising it. Of course, in the real world, politics doesn't work that way - you can charm, cajole, browbeat, bribe and blackmail your way to a handful of votes here and there, but unless (like Reagan) you have a substantial faction of the opposition party that is philosophically closer to you than to your critics, or unless (like FDR and LBJ) you have so many votes you don't need the opposition, you're going to have to give something to get bipartisan support.

And thus far, especially on the colossal pork barrel masquerading as a "stimulus" bill, Obama has made his decision, or perhaps just allowed Congressional liberals to make it for him: it's the Democrats' way or the highway:

As the president, he had told Kyl after the Arizonan raised objections to the notion of a tax credit for people who don't pay income taxes, Obama told Cantor this morning that "on some of these issues we're just going to have ideological differences."

The president added, "I won. So I think on that one, I trump you."

The results thus far have been predictable:

-The House version of the stumulus bill passed with zero Republican votes and got the barest minimum number of Republican supporters (three Senators) to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. Yet even the pitiful concessions made have Nancy Pelosi vowing to force filibusters of any legislation that gets passed on party-line votes in the House rather than make compromises acceptable even to the most liberal Senate Republicans. The compromise bill has just passed the House, again with no GOP support.

-Obama's own choice for Commerce Secretary, Republican Senator Judd Gregg, ended up withdrawing his nomination due in part to the Administration's unwillingness to accept that he couldn't support the bill in its current form (and in part because of Obama's plan to remove control of the Census Bureau from his department and hand it over to political operatives in the White House in light of Gregg's opposition during the last census to unconstitutional partisan efforts to skew the count to favor Democrats).

-Even fetishists of bipartisan legislation, like John McCain, have blasted the resulting bill as anything but bipartisan.

President Bush Totally Not Meeting With Congressional Democrats-Even Democrats who are still trying to spin this in Obama's favor are noticing:

[Oklahoma Democratic Congressman Dan] Boren said Obama "missed an opportunity" for the stimulus bill to be bipartisan.

"It was a good thing for the president to meet with Republicans. The previous administration never met with Democratic members of Congress.

"The problem is that it became a Democrat bill and not an American bill," Boren continued, "because he didn't use any of the Republican ideas."

Now, let's make one thing very clear here. Obama is proceeding on the view that the guy who wins the election gets to enact the policies he wants. Having won a decisive, if not overwhelming, majority of the popular vote and having a large Congressional majority at his back, he certainly has every right to do that. Democrats spent much of the 2001-2006 period moaning about how President Bush and Karl Rove pursued, at home and abroad, a 50-plus-one strategy of making only the minimum necessary concessions to get only as much bipartisan support as they needed to get things passed, and about how Tom DeLay & company ran the House with the goal of maximizing what they could get for the conservative agenda, regardless of the wishes of the minority. Republicans shouldn't whine about these things they way the other side did; they are the prerogative of an elected majority, and they promote accountability, so as to put the American people, in 2010 and 2012, in a position to judge the Democrats' handiwork. As Obama himself put it:

I'm not going to make any excuses...If stuff hasn't worked, if people don't feel like I've led the country in the right direction then you'll have a new president.

But we can certainly point out what Obama and the Democrats are doing, as well as how it makes a complete fraud of Obama's claim that he ever intended to be a "post-partisan" president in any real sense, and complete hypocrites of the very people who whined the loudest when Bush took the same approach. What they are doing is giving a golden gift to conservatives who were feeling demoralized just a few short months ago.

A. The Pure Partisan Politics

As a matter of politics, conservatives, having only a small Republican minority to work with and a moderate-to-liberal faction still remaining within that minority, faced the dire threat that Obama would coopt enough Republican support for his initiatives to make it impossible to get out a distinct opposing message and hold him accountable if he fails. Experienced leaders know what Obama doesn't:

If Republicans support the Democrats' economic agenda and the economy gets better, Democrats will get all the credit.

If Republicans oppose the Democrats' economic agenda and the economy gets better, Democrats will get all the credit.

If Republicans support the Democrats' economic agenda and the economy does not get better, the two parties will share the blame.

If Republicans oppose the Democrats' economic agenda and the economy does not get better, Democrats alone will get the blame.

In other words, as a strictly political matter, the only major risk for the Democrats, and the only possible upside for Republicans, is if Republicans can distinguish themselves from what the Democrats are doing. And by taking the "I won" approach, Obama is allowing, even compelling, moderate Republicans to do just that. The result is an opposition that is energized and sees a path to recovery, rather than one that is divided, demoralized and outmaneuvered.

B. The Politics of the Policy

Second, when you look more closely at the policy involved and how it plays politically, the Democrats in general and Obama in particular are doing two unwise things at once: they are ceding critical high ground to Republicans while concentrating their own forces on the site of their own worst prior defeats. Let's consider what the Democrats are giving up:

(1) The Deficit

Democrats have made a lot of hay the last 8 years complaining about budget deficits, an argument they generally use as cover for tax hikes. Now, they are proposing to spend three quarters of a trillion dollars in pure deficit spending. Not a month into Obama's term, Democrats are forfeiting that issue entirely. Sure, a year from now they will use the deficits they doubled as an argument for tax hikes, but who will listen?

(2) Spending

The GOP was already in the process of a grassroots-driven movement towards fiscal discipline and away from bailouts and "compassionate conservatism." Just when this internal dynamic is gaining steam, the massive price tag and Christmas list of liberal pet projects and pork cobbled together by the Democrats has surrendered entirely any pretense that the Democrats were going to compete with Republicans on this issue. You may recall, from the nationally televised debates, Obama's own, unambiguous, read-my-lips promise on spending (which he repeated several times):

[W]hat I've proposed, you'll hear Sen. McCain say, well, he's proposing a whole bunch of new spending, but actually I'm cutting more than I'm spending so that it will be a net spending cut.

Now, lots of people have gotten elected by promising to reduce the deficit - FDR and Reagan being two successful and popular presidents who ran on such promises and got away with doing nothing of the sort - but the deficit is a goal, with three inputs (tax policy, spending policy, and economic performance), and the public tends to discount such promises accordingly. But spending policy alone is a choice. And we all know there will be no $800 billion spending cut bill to offset the 'stimulus.' As Obama himself put it:

You get the argument, well, 'this is not a stimulus bill, it's a spending bill. What do you think a stimulus is? That's the whole point.... No seriously, that's the point.

Not only spending, in fact, but substantial pork-barrel spending; the vast sums directed to pet causes of powerful Democrats and liberal interest groups having nothing to do with stimulating the economy have laid bare the fraudulence of Obama's claim to be against government by earmark and favor. Big Government is back, baby, and it's so hungry.

(3) Results

Finally, having staked themselves to big government spending and record deficits, Obama and the Democrats appear to be gambling on one thing: results. They are, as I noted, in a position to benefit if the economy improves on their watch. Indeed, Obama got elected in large part by raising expectations that the economy would get better under him, expectations he seems already to recognize he can't meet. The problem is twofold.

Number one, of course, given the natural operation of the business cycle and the size of the losses in the housing crisis that have to work their way through the system, it will be months at least before things get better. And number two, they run the risk of betting on a strategy that is likely to make things even worse than recessions usually are.

Remember: we haven't had liberal management of the economy in so long - three decades - that people have forgotten what it looked like in the 1933-52 and 1965-80 periods. Bill Clinton came to office with a mixed bag of policy initiatives: liberal goals like marginal tax hikes, nationalizing health care and an energy (BTU) tax, and more conservative promises like free trade agreements and welfare reform. Clinton got his tax hikes and a few additional regulatory statutes passed (we'll leave aside for now the ticking time bomb of his housing credit policy), but his health care plan and BTU tax died even in a Democrat-controlled Congress while the free trade agreements (NAFTA and GATT) passed, and once we had a Republican Congress, they teamed up with Clinton to pass welfare reform, a capital gains tax cut, and a number of smaller conservative priorities while restraining spending and ultimately running a budget surplus. In other words, the overall record of the Clinton years was moderate and bipartisan given the deals that got made between the two sides. (Clinton also benefitted from external good fortune that bears no resemblance to the conditions of today - a period of relative world peace and huge growth in democracy and free trade worldwide).

By contrast, Obama and the Democrats have now committed themselves irrevocably to massive growth in government spending, and the odds are that they are not done there, as we are likely to see the ghosts of economic liberalism past and of Eurosocialism present come knocking: more marginal tax hikes, a government takeover of health care, protectionism, massive new regulations, measures to tip the labor-management balance towards unions, restrictions on energy production, you name it. No serious adult can believe that any of this will help the economy; Obama, by always talking about "saving" rather than creating jobs, seems to imply that he, too, recognizes that he can't promise any improvements. Indeed, liberal economic policy has never been about enabling growth so much as assuming it will happen and fighting over how to divide the spoils. Republicans and conservatives can feel secure in their opposition to these economic policies because we know they don't work.

So there you have it: Obama and the Democrats, by ramming the 'stimulus' bill through on a party-line basis and bulldozing Republican opposition, have taken ownership of old-time Big Government liberalism; they have surrendered to Republicans the very issues that divided the GOP and attracted moderate swing voters to the Democratic banner; they have energized and galvanized their opponents; they have discarded the pretense of bipartisanship; and they have, in the end, lashed themselves to the mast of policies that are proven not to work. The only thing the stimulus bill will stimulate is conservatism.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:45 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (53) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

What really is driving the stimulus is game theory, as Crank aptly states:

"If Republicans support the Democrats' economic agenda and the economy gets better, Democrats will get all the credit.

If Republicans oppose the Democrats' economic agenda and the economy gets better, Democrats will get all the credit.

If Republicans support the Democrats' economic agenda and the economy does not get better, the two parties will share the blame.

If Republicans oppose the Democrats' economic agenda and the economy does not get better, Democrats alone will get the blame."


That is what is going on, not some reassertion of conservatism as the more "principled" philosophy. It's a reasonable gamble too for Republicans to make en masse, however it has a steep downside that must be recognized if the economy turns around, particularly before 2010.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 13, 2009 3:16 PM

I would add only this, seth: if Republicans really thought the bill was going to work, they'd vote for it anyway and look for other areas in which to distance themselves from Obama.

I never discount pure self-interest on the part of legislators. But most of them do nonetheless have a worldview that informs how they figure out what's in that self-interest.

Posted by: Crank at February 13, 2009 3:21 PM

Crank, ideology is of course at play here as well. But it is no coincidence that 3 Republicans from Maine and Pennsylvania...states that Obama won by double digits...are voting yes on the stimulus. One can say, "well those are moderates with moderate ideology", but that reflects the realpolitik of the type of Republican that can get elected in those states.

And the caveat to your "if Republicans really thought the bill was going to work, they'd vote for it" comment is that few Republicans want to be targetted by conservative PAC's like Specter, Snowe, and Collins (and Gregg had he stayed in the cabinet) are already being. Given that pressure, one can certainly make the case that it is the 3 defectors acting on "principle" not the rest of the GOP lot. Specter's poll ratings have surely taken a hit, but if the guy aint scared of cancer he's tough enough to push back on this too.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 13, 2009 3:30 PM

I don't get Seth's point other than to argue that 3 GOP senators may or may not be hurt by their vote, so the rest of the GOP didn't want to see the same fate so voted against?

Posted by: Peach at February 13, 2009 3:39 PM

I'm tired of hearing about this "I won" comment from BO. My understanding is that he made the comment to a group of Representatives and/or Senators every single one of which "WON" their respective election.

Posted by: Bill at February 13, 2009 3:51 PM

Dan Boren - "It was a good thing for the president to meet with Republicans. The previous administration never met with Democratic members of Congress."

Liar. Exhibit 1 NYT: Bush and Kennedy Nurture Common Ground on Legislative Goals

Posted by: Leland at February 13, 2009 3:52 PM

The Maine "republicans" are going to survive bc part of the "compromise" they engineered was for several hundred million dollars in Medicaid payments to Maine. Maine basically got paid off to sell out the rest of the country.

Posted by: Notupthereanymore at February 13, 2009 3:52 PM

Very well said.

Posted by: Frank Mauran at February 13, 2009 3:55 PM

I think one undersells how bad this "stimulus" truly stinks (as a stimulus bill; if you are for big government, then it's great) if one bases GOP opposition on nothing more than game theory.

I've tried to read a lot on the bill and I realy have not read a serious and logical defense of it. (Again, defending it as a stimulus bill. I've read defenses of it that were based on the need for government aid and spending.)

Good post, Crank.

Posted by: per14 at February 13, 2009 3:56 PM

Peach, my point is that those 3 "defecting" Republicans hail from states that elect moderate Republicans, if at all, and so the damage done by conservative PAC's is outweighed by the larger state demographic, although Specter seems vulnerable in ways that the Maine duo is not.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 13, 2009 3:58 PM

Ironically if Obama doesnt get elected to a 2nd term the GOP can thank Bush most of all for driving the economy off of a deep enough cliff.

Posted by: robert at February 13, 2009 4:03 PM

Remember how McCain took a risk in backing the Surge. It was successful, but there was no upside for him. It may be the same thing on the stimulus.

Even if it is successful, the credit for supporting it might not be there. And if the economy improves on its own, there could be competing theories about what fixed it, if anything.

Posted by: Geoff at February 13, 2009 4:06 PM

Another thought and also ironic: the stimulus apparently will create a number of jobs. (Temporary jobs that don't really involve stimulating the economy, but that's another matter.) But then according to the CBO, it will stunt economic growth long term. So BO will get political credit for the short term job growth but he'll be long gone when the long term effects set in.

Posted by: per14 at February 13, 2009 4:07 PM

Conservative PACs aren't going to touch Specter, Collins, and Snowe because every GOPer knows that a hardline conservative cannot win in those states. These three senators can be tolerated if the GOP has more numbers -- they only become a royal pain when the Dems are near 60 seats.

Seth is also wrong on his game theory. That RINO squish McCain also promised a stimulus package during the campaign, so at least some folks in the GOP were willing to be pragmatic within some kind of reason. Obama gave the GOPers ample opportunity to jump on board his "post-partisan" train right after he took office. If Republicans really thought the stimulus would work and didn't have ideological objections to it, they could have joined Obama-Pelosi-Reid from the beginning and spun it as a bipartisan/post-partisan nirvana where both parties should get the credit. Given his rhetoric at the time, Obama would have been in no position to deny the GOP at least some credit later.

No, the GOP is opposing this porkfest because it goes way, way beyond anything they can stomach, and being out of power does wonders for recovering one's principles.

Posted by: Ben at February 13, 2009 4:15 PM

It's not "my" game theory; I quoted from Crank directly. I just ascribe more weight to the game theoretical aspect than Crank does, and less weight to the ideological aspect. I certainly agree that both are present.

To say that McCain promised a "stimulus package" implies that his took the form of Obama's, which it did not. So its apples and oranges.

The same Republicans who are voting no on the stimulus have become latter day spending hawks only after a Democrat got elected. Under Bush they were putting the spending pedal to the medal precisely because game theory trumps ideology.

And, to flip Crank's point around, if Democrats really thought the stimulus would fail they'd part ways with Obama and vote no rather than go down with his ship.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 13, 2009 4:21 PM


Prediction 1: We will see deficits in excess of 10% of GDP throughout Obama's term.

Prediction 2: Inflation & Interest Rates will start galloping, reaching heights not seen since the Carter years.

Prediction 3: Unemployment will break 10% sometime in late 2009/early 2010 and stay high throughout Obama's term.

Prediction 4: The GOP will win back control of Congress in 2010.

Prediction 5: Obama will go on loosing the 2012 election is a landslide matching Reagan's in '80 or '84.

Posted by: Pontificator at February 13, 2009 4:25 PM

"And, to flip Crank's point around, if Democrats really thought the stimulus would fail they'd part ways with Obama and vote no rather than go down with his ship."

I disagree. The "Stimulus" Package represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Left to get their "Christmas Wish List" completely in full by a single piece of legislation which will have ramifications for decades to come.

They went for it without hesitation.

Whether it works or not in terms of economic recovery, I don't think they (the Left) could care less.

Posted by: Carol at February 13, 2009 4:33 PM

Carol you're mistakenly assuming that all yea votes were from leftists. Many moderate Dems and several blue dogs flipped to support it. There is greater ideological diversity in the Democratic party than in the Republican party, which is part of the reason why Republicans have been more successful at presidential campaign messaging until recently.

Posted by: dante at February 13, 2009 4:37 PM

The problem with seth's comments is that he really doesn't understand Republican thinking. If there are any senators wearing the brand Republican that honestly think this is going to work, they are not really Republicans. Indeed, if this plan does work, the Republicans are looking at a loong time in the wilderness. I personally don't think the risk of that is very high. seth does because he thinks the plan will work. The chips are on the table boys.

Posted by: TJA at February 13, 2009 4:38 PM

Boren is my congressman. He was elected on his name, as happens in many states. His district is heavily classical Democratic, but not marxist. I have two good senators to offset him - Inhofe and Coburn. He comes from a long line of practical Dems, who thrive on perks and graft - like David Boren who is President of OU. By the way, the college presidencies in Oklahoma are reserved for the leading Democratic politicians who would like to retire with Liesure and class.

I don't agree much with Boren, but I think he will probably have a good handle on how the Marxist Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot.

Posted by: Ol' Country Boy at February 13, 2009 4:40 PM

"GOP can thank Bush most of all for driving the economy off of a deep enough cliff"

Yeah, and he also drove the socialist economies of Europe and the economies of the rest of the world over that same cliff. What a powerful guy. You would think that the hyper-regulated socialist economies of Europe would be immune to this recession, yet mysteriously, they are not...

Posted by: TJA at February 13, 2009 4:42 PM

TJA: I actually belong to the camp that feels the stimulus may not be big enough, that its too riddled with tax cuts and needs more infrastructure spending, and that as presently constituted it may not work, or be "perceived" as working. So my assertion about game theory has nothing to do with my feeling that the stimulus "will work". To the contrary, as I stated in my original post, I think the Republicans' current gamble is reasonable from a game theory perspective precisely because the economy is in such a bad shape that the current stimulus may be inadequate to the task. Maybe. The flip side is that Obama could break a stimulus agenda into increments, not wanting to threaten the current bill's political viability by making it bigger. If he does it that way, I think the Republican gamble weakens.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 13, 2009 4:47 PM

Let's not kid ourselves. If the stimulus works, or seems to work, Obama and the Democrats get all the credit. If it fails, Bush and the Republicans get the blame, much as with Hoover.

But in any event, there will be no Republican recovery, since the real purpose of the stimulus bill will be achieved: it will put more people on the government payroll or the government dole, and those people will vote Democrat. Just like in Chicago.

Posted by: punditius at February 13, 2009 4:49 PM

The idea that game theory doesnt represent "Republican thinking" and that you are all a bunch of ideological, selfless purists is hysterical in the extreme. Yeah, Atwater and Rove blocked game theory out of their mind as they plotted campaign strategy. Riiiiiight.

Posted by: robert at February 13, 2009 4:58 PM

Seth,

No, it's not apples and oranges. The point is that Republicans like McCain were not only willing to support a stimulus package, but even proposed one themselves (for that matter, the House GOP has a counter-proposal right now). The fact that the GOP would not support the Reid-Pelosi "stimulus" has more to do with how crappy it is than game theory. There is simply no reason for anyone in the GOP (other than squishes like Collins & Snowe) to vote for it.

"The same Republicans who are voting no on the stimulus have become latter day spending hawks only after a Democrat got elected. Under Bush they were putting the spending pedal to the medal precisely because game theory trumps ideology."

No, they were putting "Washingtonitis" -- the arrogance that comes from having power over huge sums of money -- over ideology. One of my own senators, Shelby, has his name plastered on more multimillion dollar complexes around the state than I would care to count. Once in power, ego more often than not takes over everything.

But speaking of latter-day spending hawks, please recall that Dems spent the first six years under Bush whining about his deficits and how much more fiscally responsible they would be if they ran things. That lasted all of about two minutes after the 2006 midterms.

Posted by: Ben at February 13, 2009 5:01 PM

roger,

I don't think anyone is claiming the GOP congressmen are all purists. But there are purists among them who are standing on the same principles they stood for when they fought excessive spending by their own party.

The biggest difference is that the Dems just spend way, way, way, way more. And Seth wants to borrow even more than that.

Hey, Seth -- it's going to be a lot of fun when all these mounds of cash cause the worst inflationary spiral in U.S. history, won't it? Make sure you have a wheelbarrow. You'll need it to haul enough cash to the store to buy bread.

Posted by: Ben at February 13, 2009 5:07 PM

One small quibble....

Clinton campaigned on the idea of "ending welfare as we know it"...which, of course, could mean anything. He vetoed welfare reform--as Congressional Republicans defined it--twice before he finally ended up signing a third version. It is easy for a President to paint a Congress not enacting his agenda as "obstructionist", but I think it is equally easy for a Congress to paint a President who vetoes everything as obstructing progress. I think that more than the reform itself, not wanting to be seen in this light may have been Clinton's motivation.

Posted by: azlibertarian at February 13, 2009 5:23 PM

While I agree on some points, it seems that the Stimulus Bill is definitely an once-in-a-lifetime power grab that the Democrats believe they cannot pass up. No economic down turn has ever been averted, slowed or reversed by increased governmental spending, ever� which the Democrats know. The Stimulus Bill is a way to help insure control over the economy & strengthen the power of Democratic members in Congress while making the market dependent upon the Government regardless of who control either House or the Executive Branch in future. Whatever political set-backs they occur as fall-out from this maneuver will be off-set, in time, by that increase of control that Congress will pick up.

The real GOP gain will be immediately in the House vs. the Senate - hence Obama's grab to politicize the 2010 Census to off-set the natural loses from the failed stimulus. Control of House is also control over investigation of Government abuses, programs, etc, which means that a Republican majority in the House can slow or halt a Democratic President�s agenda altogether� the real reason for the rush. Given the potential indicators that could come from having direct access to census data, which affects the number of House Representatives & election districting, they plan to target & hopefully prevent/address such dramatic loses after the Stimulus package doesn�t work & utilize the economic controls they have effectively given themselves to promote further �change� as they see fit.

Posted by: PMain at February 13, 2009 5:26 PM

The only thing the stimulus bill will stimulate is conservatism.

That's a shame, considering that the reason why Obama has his majorities is because we just completed 8 years of failed conservatism.

What needs to be "stimulated" is the opposite of both the Left and conservatism -- Americanism.

Posted by: Seerak at February 13, 2009 5:31 PM

Great analysis, Crank.

I simply hope that the damage below the deck is not so great that there's nothing worth taking control of again in four years. It will take an ENORMOUS amount of work to undo all the bad policy and social engineering that is now happening at light speed.

Posted by: Jude at February 13, 2009 5:32 PM

Sen. Gregg withdrew because (1) Obamas chutzpah crossed the line and (2) Obama CANNOT put away his birth certificate issue.

1. Heres the chutzpah: The Republicans didnt get their act together enough to challenge Obama for not being constitutionally qualified to be President as an Article 2 natural born citizen so Obamas White House steals the census from the Commerce Department against the specific instructions of the constitution itself actual enumeration under Article 1.

2. Heres the birth certificate issue: Since Obamas earnest drive to convince the nation to weaken its economic strength through redistribution as well as weaken its national defense, COUPLED WITH HIS UNPRECEDENTED WHITE HOUSE TAKEOVER OF DECENNIAL CENSUS TAKING FROM THE COMMERCE DEPARTMENT, has confirmed the very threats to our Republics survival that the Constitution was designed to avert, it no longer is sustainable for the United States Supreme Court to refrain from exercising WHAT IS ITS ABSOLUTE CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY TO DEFEND THE NATION FROM UNLAWFUL USURPATION. The questions of Obamas Kenyan birth and his fathers Kenyan/British citizenship (admitted on his own website) have been conflated by his sustained unwillingnes to supply his long form birth certificate now under seal, and compounded by his internet posting of a discredited after-the-fact short form certificate. In the absence of these issues being acknowledged and addressed, IT IS MANIFEST THAT OBAMA REMAINS INELIGIBLE TO BE PRESIDENT UNDER ARTICLE 2 OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. Being a 14th Amendment citizen is not sufficient. A President MUST BE an Article 2 natural born citizen AS DEFINED BY THE FRAMERS INTENT.

Posted by: Ted at February 13, 2009 5:53 PM

One thing that you didn't mention is that the constitution places the responsibility for fiscal policy in the congress, not the executive.

Posted by: Some Guy at February 13, 2009 5:56 PM

I trust that Crank finds Ted's "birth certificate" nonsense to be just that.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 13, 2009 6:24 PM

Ben may be right about Collins and Snowe in Maine, but dead wrong about Specter in PA. Ever hear of 2-term senator Rick Santorum?

Heavy campaigning by the then-popular Bush, Santorum, and RNC barely saved Specter in the 20004 primary vs. Pat Toomey. Specter is definitely vulnerable if Toomey runs again (though Toomey may run for Governor instead).

But Specter's vote has nothing to do with his re-election. His standard 6-year term begins with 5 years as a D, followed by 6 months as an R, then 6 months of campaigning. He still has a year left before acting like an R.

Posted by: Pennsylvanian at February 13, 2009 6:40 PM

"One thing that you didn't mention is that the constitution places the responsibility for fiscal policy in the congress, not the executive. "

Yup.

BTW, when did this economic downturn take place? Oh, and who was in charge when that happened?

Posted by: bdog57 at February 13, 2009 7:02 PM

Sorry seth, but Ted's birth certificate comment is not nonsense. Just because the entire county decided to give this character a pass on it doesn't make it nonsense -- unless of course you consider constitutional requirements to be nonsense. By the way, I'm about to apply for a passport for a trip to Deutschland. Do you think I'll have to present my birth certificate? Or does the critter-in-chief's actions establish a precedent?

Posted by: Tom at February 13, 2009 7:19 PM

There is no constitutional requirement that presidential candidates produce a birth certificate based on some looney's demand. Of course Obama's has been verified by the Hawaii registrar but let's not let facts get in the way of your conspiracy theory.

Besides you didnt demand that McCain produce a certificate. I hear that his biological father was really a vacationing Swede, so he's not a natural born citizen with mom out of the country and all. How do I know this...the same way you "know" Obama was born in Kenya.

Posted by: robert at February 13, 2009 7:52 PM

I put the birth certificate stuff with the Vince Foster stuff: there were some legitimate questions at the beginning, the answers were never quite perfect, but we learned enough to conclude there was just smoke, no fire. It's just crazy talk at this point.

Posted by: Crank at February 13, 2009 8:00 PM

What gives me comfort is that even if there are more and more people on the dole, there is a tipping point where there is not enough going into the coffers to support the dole. With democrats in control of so much, they will milk the cow dry in the blink of an eye. There is a lot of capital sitting on the sidelines, but what in this environment could possibly make you want to invest it?

Posted by: Woodsinfall at February 13, 2009 10:14 PM

Crank,

You've been tooting the "Obama will lead the Democrats over the cliff" horn since last spring. So far, your record is perfect; 100% wrong.

Keep hoping for the Boy Wonder and Pricess Sarah.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 13, 2009 10:39 PM

I agree that opposition was the best course of action for the Republicans from a strategic point of view.

I also agree that the main purpose of the so-called stimulus package was to nationalize the economy. Note that I did not say socialism. That may or may not be the next step.

I agree with the Democrat Christmas Tree theory as well; years of pent-up wish lists finally got granted.

However I also believe that if the economy does turn around within 2009 or the first quarter of 2010, of course Obama will get credit. And if it doesn't turn around, Obama, with the help of the MSM, will say, "The problem created by Bush was so severe that we need more time." He already set this up in his recent speeches. So I buy the effectiveness if not the truth of the Bush = Hoover Democrat talking point mentioned earlier.

As for inflation, it should be remembered that the FDR inflation didn't really hit until LBJ reinforced it thirty years later. True, currency is flooding the system. But there are extremely strong DEFLATIONARY pressures. Housing assets have to be readjusted downward, commodities need to fall just as oil has. China is just about at the end of their building spree. When the boomers retire and die there will be an oversupply of housing that will further depress prices. New regulations and foolish policies regarding so-called global warming will reduce productivity. The mega-inflation might hit in three years or it might not hit for a decade or two when deflation has been wrung out of the world economy.

My biggest concerns are beyond the economy. Will elections be fair? Will political speech be abridged? Will the percentage of voters not paying income tax soon exceed the percentage of voters who do?

And will there be significant terrorism against us and our allies? Will the Islamization of Europe continue? Will the Chavez model or the Uribe model win in South America? Will Israel and Iran fight a nuclear war?

There is more than enough to worry about.

Still, I think the main point of Crank's article is sound. I just think it is over-optimistic.

Posted by: Batman at February 13, 2009 11:29 PM

Republicans arent opposing the stimulus on "principle", unless you mean the principle of winning reelection. Watch and see...not one of these staunch stimulus opponents will urge their home state governors to reject the stimulus money, not a single one. Lindsey Graham, Mr. two face himself, is already encouraging the SC governor to accept the money, so who is kidding who here? And don't give me the "they might as well take it" response if you are maintaining that conservative "principle" is driving the stimulus debate and vote. That's a cop out.

Posted by: robert at February 15, 2009 1:46 PM

robert,

I'm sure many conservative states would gladly "opt out" of the stimulus if they were allowed to do so. But the only thing they can opt out of is the benefits; there is no option to opt out of the costs. Even though I disagree with the stimulus, I think it would be downright foolish for my state to refuse the benefits and stick me with the costs.

It's a prisoner's dilemma, and we all would have been much better off if Congress didn't vote yes in the first place.

Posted by: DKH at February 15, 2009 2:48 PM

Nice to see DKH that you admit the stimulus program produces "benefits", something never acknowledged in the conservative blogosphere. That said, either you are a conservative on principle or you are not, and if so, you should be telling your governors to turn back the money. Fat chance of that.

Posted by: robert at February 15, 2009 5:21 PM

DHK,

Now you know how we feel about the trillions wasted in Iraq on a fool's errand.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 15, 2009 9:03 PM

Reading Magrooder's comments remind me what's its like to throw up. Watering mouth, expulsion - then revulsion...and finally relief when the experience is over. You should just stop commenting on this site and save us all the trouble.

Robert acknowledges that borrowing trillions from future generations will lead to some positive up front benefits, but the question that remains is whether that up front cost is worth the long term debt (I'll save you the trouble - it won't be.).

Dollars "wasted" in Iraq? You know, same debate. We are going to get something for our $2 Trillion. The question is, is it going to be worth it? That's the debate. Fool's errand - that's your opinion. But it can and should be debated. Just remember - what the payoff is must be determined in terms of decades, not months...unlike a stimulus, which by its nature should inject a quick "bump" in the economy in a short fashion.

Posted by: Chris at February 15, 2009 11:52 PM

Chris mostly makes my points. Of course there will be benefits. The question is, indeed, whether it will be worth it. I say that overall, no, it will not be worth it. The government is interfering in the market to transfer money from one group to another, and that almost always leads to market inefficiencies.

Posted by: DKH at February 16, 2009 1:21 AM

Add Florida's John Mica and Alaska's Don Young to Lindsay Graham's "let's quickly shift gears" hypocrisy tour. Mica praising the stimulus' introduction of high speed rail funds into his state, and Young doing the same for small business contracting relief. The "princpled" opposition is falling like dominoes.

Posted by: dante at February 16, 2009 1:48 PM

Republicans don't like the stimulus bill because it might actually help American citizens.
They have no qualms wasting taxpayer money on the Iraq (no, don't say quagmire) clusterfu**.

Watch the GOP put their money where their mouths are and "Just Say No" to the stimulus money being brought into their districts.
LOL.
I'm not sure Republicans can count as high as the percentage of chance that will happen (i.e. zero).

Posted by: Berto at February 16, 2009 3:13 PM

Berto,

With whom are you arguing? I see no mention of Iraq made by Crank, and the Iraq war debate is entirely different from the stimulus debate.

The 'pro' side of the Iraq war rests its argument on national security gains. The 'pro' side of the stimulus debate rests its claim on the thought that government spending has an economic multiplier greater than 1.

Obviously that simplifies the debate a little, but the point is this: refutation of each of these arguments will have a very different form (security arguments as opposed to economic arguments). It's fatuous to try to draw an equivalence ("you think the stimulus is a waste; I think the Iraq war was a waste. therefore, the two debates are equivalent").

Posted by: Berto at February 16, 2009 4:20 PM

I apologize; the previous comment was by me and meant to be addressed to Berto.

Posted by: DKH at February 16, 2009 4:26 PM

dkh,
There's another difference. The Iraq War hasn't helped the nation's security, the jury is still out on the stimulus bill.
Personally, I don't think the stimulus bill is large enough, it's laden down with tax cuts, and there needs to be more in it for the working classes during these tough economic times.

Posted by: Berto at February 19, 2009 11:20 PM

Wistfully, the answer is more often than not an approximation that is so smooth it would simply require a brief period of time to secure into place, but is typically excluded.

Posted by: Debt Settlement at February 26, 2009 8:54 PM
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