On the Verge of a Stimulus Plan

Regrettably the Obama Administration has gotten off to a sloppy start both in letting House Democrats take the lead in crafting the stimulus plan and in the tax related problems surrounding several high level appointees. But make no mistake about it; these missteps are not fatal and will not magically vindicate the failed policies of the past. They will not by default somehow lead to the immediate resurrection conservative ideology and their shelf life in the news cycle will be relatively short. If all one did was to heed the political babble of the Hannitys, Limbaughs and Malkins of the world one would think that we had arrived at Jimmy Carter redux but that is emphatically not the case. The folly of such sentiment is apparent in a last minute plea by Dick Morris via The National Republican Trust PAC entitled: “Obama Close to Big Defeat, Help Make It Happen”. The alarm is sounded anew about the supposed threat of “socialism” and among other things, the dredging up once again of Jeremiah Wright as if he has anything to do with the current administration. If one were to only set his or her dial to the right side of the political spectrum one would believe that the election of Barack Obama was some sort of aberration, a visitation if you will, on the American body politic. One of the more interesting outcomes of the last election is the extent to which the conservative punditry has parted company with Congressional Republicans. Conservative commentary has been relentless in its incessant rant about the slippery slope of economic socialization and its penchant for dogmatic purity in a day and age when practical solutions trump ideological debate. In contrast, Republicans on Capitol Hill have embraced the notion of the stimulus plan even while arguing about particular elements contained therein.

On the verge of a resolution of the stimulus package, conservative commentator David Brooks was quick to point out that Republican opposition to the bill was more in the realm of legislative particulars with ideological arguments largely absent from the discussion. To quote Brooks, “If the stimulus fails, Republicans don’t want their name on it.” Having insisted on a partial socialization of the financial sector during the Bush Administration’s bank bailout the GOP is ideologically hobbled in the midst of the present discussion as to whether or not the government should be involved in stepping in to help right a floundering economy. With the Republican Party losing ground across a large swath of the political landscape, obstructionism at this point in time will only serve to further hinder the GOP in the next election cycle. In spite of the apparent fact that Congressional Democrats have yet to get the message that the public is fed up with earmarks and spending for esoteric pet projects, Republicans on the Hill know that there is no political cover in obstructionism. As the bill winds its way through the Senate, moderate Republicans are showing support and that should be all that is needed to reach a workable compromise. That said Republicans on Capitol Hill have admirably stood up to the notion of wasteful spending even if that portion of the bill characterized as such amounts to a relatively small sum of the total spending. Moreover, Republicans have been right on the mark in pointing out the lack of stimulus inherent in spending that is two to three years out in the bill. In the final analysis on November 4th the American people voted for a new direction in the American political economy and with that there comes an implicit increased involvement of government in economic activity. Barack Obama may be off to a rocky if not sloppy start, but a new course has most assuredly been charted and fundamentally, Congressional Republicans, if not the conservative talking class are on board for the ride.

Steven J. Gulitti
February 6, 2009