How Much Should Taxpayers Have to Pay for Political Aesthetics?

by: David Sirota

Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 02:15

Here's the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne on Obama's tax cut proposals:

But about $100 billion of the package is expected to go to a variety of business tax cuts, some likely to be at best marginally stimulative. Why is Obama doing this? One Capitol Hill Democrat familiar with the president-elect's recent meeting with congressional leaders said that Obama told Republicans that while he could probably get his program through with mostly Democratic votes, he preferred to win GOP support so that his program could pass quickly and be sustainable over time. (emphasis added)

So, according to Dionne (and I have no reason to doubt him), Obama is pretty openly sacrificing part of "his program" (which we can assume is his progressive spending promises) not so that he has enough votes to pass it - Obama says he "could probably" get that through as is thanks to big Democratic majorities. No, he's sacrificing "his program" so that he gets lots of extra Republican votes - most of which he doesn't mathematically need but which he wants.

Why does he want this? Dionne says "so that his program could pass quickly and be sustainable over time." That's a silly platitude - last I checked "bipartisanship" has nothing to do with speed or "sustainability over time." Last I checked, FDR passed the New Deal very quickly over Republican objections, and it's tenets lasted for almost three-quarters of a century. Last I checked, George W. Bush passed his tax cuts very quickly over Democratic objections, and those tax cuts continue to confine American politics to this day.  

No, what this is about is Obama wanting to create a "bipartisan" image for himself. And that raises an important question: At a time when Obama is sounding the alarm about deficits, how much should taxpayers have to pay for political aesthetics? Put another way, how much should we have to pony up in order to help Obama make David Broder happy?

David Sirota :: How Much Should Taxpayers Have to Pay for Political Aesthetics?
According to news reports this week, Obama thinks the answer is somewhere in the range of $100 billion to $300 billion. That's roughly how much he wants to devote to tax cuts in order to get Republican votes and construct a "bipartisan" image.

So I ask you - in a Congress where, according to Dionne, Obama himself thinks he could pass a totally progressive package with mostly Democratic votes, should taxpayers be forced to spend $100 billion to $300 billion so that Obama attains a more bipartisan image? I'd say no.

I'd say that the only important thing right now is to pass the most responsible, economically pragmatic package possible, which the data show is one comprised primarily of public spending. I'd say that's the most important thing, regardless of whether it passes by one vote or 99 votes. And I'd say that the Beltway's fetishization of "bipartisanship" aside, most Americans don't know - and don't care - by how much any bill passes. All they care about is whether what passes actually works to fix the economy.

But maybe you think I'm wrong. Do you think its worth spending $100 billion to $300 billion to get, let's say, 20 Republican Senate votes? That would be about $5 billion to $15 billion per GOP senator, who again - Obama admits he probably doesn't actually need for passage.

Doesn't sound like a great bargain to me.

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Get over it-the Obama's are very middle of the road (4.00 / 2)
in every way. They don't let their children stay home from school the day after the election. Business as usual so go to school. Just watch how they are with their children and how the kids react. They are lovely, well behaved and not like the children of very liberal parents that I have known. They both came up the ladder through education and have a great respect for the rules that go with that. They are well read (reasonable), well educated but they are not really out there in every way. They dress conservatively and their body language is conservative.

We need to stop expecting him to be left progressive because he isn't. He is a very smart politician that could in time become a great statesman, but he isn't there yet if ever. We need to push him and push him all the time. Criticizing his cabinet is good work here. I see that he is creating bipartisanship and don't mind giving him a chance to see that it won't work as certain ones will be trying to undermine his power. I think he knows this too.

And he cannot afford to tumble business out of bed (and that means health insurance companies and big pharma) so suddenly that he will risk their dropping like the autos.

Lilly has just closed its doors on its clinic testing investigational drugs after seventy-five years! This was a big move. Bristol Myers also closed its investigational unit. The ones doing generic testing are still going but the studies have radically decreased. They know that it's no use if universal health goes through to spend all that money bringing new drugs to market.

And my estimation of new drugs is that they are the pits. Lots of them have to do with old folks in nursing homes. Pain killers combined with morphine derivatives having an additive that stops the addiction effects. (Lots of these.)Urinary retention drugs combined with anti depressants for nursing home victims so staff won't have to get them to the toilet in the middle of the night. (Drives blood pressure up though.)

They are scaling back already as they see what's coming but they are not crashing. Yet.

That's crazy.... (4.00 / 3) are they going to make money once their patents expire?  Will they just become generic drug companies?

I realize that the U.S. has been a wonderful cash cow for them as we subsidize their losses in other countries, but even with "universal care" they will make money on new drugs... especially the biologicals, which are difficult to make generically...

The reason why they are closing these facilities is simple... they screwed up.  The drug companies don't have any new drugs in the pipelines... they failed to create viable drugs once their gold rush of the 90's ended...  Now, they are in trouble... but, it has nothing to do with universal care... it's 'cos their patents are expiring and they have nothing to replace them with.

Insurance companies won't pay for any brand name drugs.  You can't even find brand names for the old standbys like Elavil and Inderal... it's all generic now...

Quite frankly, it makes me happy to see them get their commupance... at the same time, while many of these new drugs are copycats, a good number of them are substantial improvements over the old drugs.  Many people are alive that wouldn't be without them... so, I am torn.

Perhaps we will go back to the 60's when drugs were few, but they were cheap... research was done at universities and drug companies didn't overcharge... we shall see, but it will be interesting times ahead.

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
You have the answer in your post (4.00 / 1)
" are they going to make money once their patents expire?  "

Cut research, which for pharma means cutting clinical trials. Which is made possible by "re-branding" the drugs they already have in their formulary for new treatments. This requires little in the way of new trials because human toxicity, side-effects, and dosage have been determined in the field while these were being prescibed for their original use. Done properly, one can obtain a new patent, too. Or, maybe just take a more direct route and insist on patent extentions as part of the New Health Care System.

For re-branding, they'll need to increase marketing efforts and try to adjust to the new health care plans as best they can - say by getting the Feds to back name-brand drugs in the still to be developed formularies? Or, perhaps by pushing the expense of clinical trials onto the hospitals, physicians, and the NIH?  Which, of course, is what they have already been doing for the last decade or so, when they are not busy defending themselves against "frivolous" law-suits brought by the victims of their past ways.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Middle of the road has nothing to do with doing the job (4.00 / 4)
right, unless you contend that middle of the roaders are plain incompetent/indifferent and we need to get use to that.  

This suck up/pay-off mentality is exactly how Social Security "getting fixed" got dragged into his stimulus package.  

I am tired of greased palms.  What is so different about that?   All I see is busy as usual.  If Obama thinks he is going to win the hearts and minds of the people that voted for him by selling them out so the looneys in DC can keep their jobs, Obama is nuts.  

[ Parent ]
You're Social Observations of the Obama's are spot on (0.00 / 0)
And add impetus to the need to create a populist/progressive alternative or a small d democratic movement.  

[ Parent ]
Because their kids are well-behaved? (4.00 / 6)
That's crazy. This guy is saying that Obama is clearly centrist because, for one thing, his kids are well-behaved in public. Maybe they're just mature for their ages. Maybe they've made the conscious choice to support their father.

Oh, and Obama's also centrist because he dresses conservatively. Same for his wife.

Look, Obama's definitely a centrist - and that in a country where the center has drifted steadily rightward over the past few decades - but it's sheer idiocy to say that anything about his dress or demeanor - let alone his children's or his wife's - tells you what his political leanings are.

[ Parent ]
It's just more hippy bashing. (4.00 / 3)
Only "conservatives" have well behaved children. Yeah, tell that to the Bushes, or the Palins for that matter.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Reread the comment. (0.00 / 0)
The statement itself is about the Obama's being middle class and using education as a ladder of upward mobility out of decidedly middle class origins.

It's about being conventional, not being conservative.  And the Obama's are a very conventional middle class family.  The only unconventional thing about them is the color of their skin.

And conventional D.C. wisdom and party philosophy is decidedly anti-progressive and can't even fathom populism.  

[ Parent ]
You mean this comment? (4.00 / 1)
"They are lovely, well behaved and not like the children of very liberal parents that I have known . . . They dress conservatively and their body language is conservative."

I understood it the first time, thanks.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Or this comment: (0.00 / 0)
Get over it-the Obama's are very middle of the road in every way

The post actually calls them "middle of the road" and uses the conservative dress and body language of the Obama's to buttress that point.  

There's a certain "conservative" personal style that's widespread both within the larger suburban world (of which the Obama's are not part of) and the African-American professional class (of which they are).  Hence Obama's broad appeal to urban intellectuals, the Gen X and young boomer monied classes and khaki clad office park moms and dads.

The Obama's are very smart middle of the road classic liberals with what appears to be a great home life.  And there's a significant difference between classic liberals and new deal liberalism, progressivism or populism.  

[ Parent ]
I guess we are just interpreting this differently. (4.00 / 2)
I read the comment as saying the Obamas are "normal," i.e. "conservative," therefore not something DFHs like those of us who read blogs are going to understand.

It's the unspoken equation of "normal," (i.e. virtuous) and "conservative" that I object to. After all if there's one thing the last eight years have taught us it's that the conservatives are the true freak show in America.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Agree (0.00 / 0)
But it's a reality and it's one of the key problems in progressive organizing in the suburbs.  

[ Parent ]
You are using "conservative" in two different ways (0.00 / 0)
Conservative dressing, body language, and behavior is not the same as "conservative" in a political sense. This is an example of linguistic confusion muddying the thinking process.

Benjamin Lee Whorf's original research into language came when he was an insurance investigator. A fire broke out in a warehouse and he investigated. He found that there were drums of flammable liquid. Cigarette smoking was prohibited in the area where these drums were. But the empty drums were labeled "empty" and so the workers were very careless around them. After all they were empty!And far more volatile than if full.

[ Parent ]
See my comment to Sadie Baker below (0.00 / 0)
And both you and Sadie should take some time to peruse:

Class Matters

[ Parent ]
I read that the first time it came out. (4.00 / 1)
I believe educationinaction wrote about it right here, on this blog.

Believe me, I know all about working class culture, and from the inside. The psuedo-populism of the Right is not it.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
The deep problem is (4.00 / 7)
that the only way for Obama to achieve the "aesthetics" of a non-trivial Republican vote in favor of his stimulus is to make it so small, and so distorted in its composition toward measures such as tax cuts that are ineffective, that it would appear to have no chance to succeed.

Krugman has estimated that the stimulus in its current composition -- before any compromises made in negotiation with Republicans -- is too small by a factor of two or three.

Basically Obama has boxed himself in by his need to define himself as bipartisan. He clearly will not tolerate putting forth perhaps the first and most important piece of legislation coming out of his Presidency without some buy in from Republicans. Nor, it seems, will he go above the one trillion dollar mark for his stimulus -- likewise no doubt for political "aesthetics".

But Obama and most other people don't seem to grasp that there is a fact of the matter as to whether the stimulus in its current form will succeed. Either it will be sufficient to pull us out of the current crisis, or it won't. Mostly, those numbers will not be spinnable if the shortfall is, in fact, considerable.

It can all be spun upfront as being just what need, or bipartisan, or progressive, or any wonderful thing you want. But the numbers are the numbers and the economic facts are the economic facts, and if the stimulus is far too small as its currently composed, it will fail abysmally to do what it is designed to do.

And, should that happen, it will be a case of Obama and the Democrats failing at governance in much the same way as the Bush administration failed at governance over Katrina and the Iraq War.

We won't live that down for decades.

Nailed it (0.00 / 0)
Basically Obama has boxed himself in by his need to define himself as bipartisan.

That's a really important sentiment, I believe.

[ Parent ]
Dihonest analysis here (1.33 / 3)
According to news reports this week, Obama thinks the answer is somewhere in the range of $100 billion to $300 billion. That's roughly how much he wants to devote to corporate tax cuts in order to get Republican votes and construct a "bipartisan" image.

First of all non of the tax cuts are corporate tax cuts, corporate rates are staying the same here while middle class gets a tax cut. second 150billion of it at least is going to middle class, and his business credit for hire jobs is about 100billion. both of which he promised in his campaign before and after the sept crash.
The way I think he see's it is that he was going to do these plans anyways but he can front load them now to get it as much bipartisan support as possible, therefor he builds a mandate for it at the same time he gets his plans passed. win-win situation. Also don't tell me you think he doesn't value bipartisanship, unless you had your ears plugged for the last two years. Bipartisan ship is very much part of his  agenda at least in short term (Hope so anyways). he will prob become more partisan as more partisan bills come up in the future like EFCA.

Corporations Will Make Billions from Tax Policy (4.00 / 9)
First of all non of the tax cuts are corporate tax cuts

Come on Burry, do a little work before you make a statement like that. This is from

"One such provision under the Obama plan would allow businesses to reduce taxes by claiming immediate depreciation of half of their spending on new equipment, rather than spreading out that depreciation over years.

Another would allow businesses to write off the huge losses they incurred last year and any suffered in 2009, enabling corporations to apply retroactively for refunds on taxes paid over the last five years.

Corporations will also get thousands of dollars in tax credits for each job supposedly created or retained."  

[ Parent ]
Exactly (4.00 / 1)
The result is that the corporations will survive and even prosper, though we're too poor to buy the stuff they're supposed to be making. Their new revenue model is to become parasites on the government.

Obama would have been wiser to just drop big bills from helicopters. That money would have percolated up to the corporations anyway, but they would have actually needed to be productive and making worthwhile stuff.

[ Parent ]
So you (0.00 / 0)
want all corporations to fall down and die? The problem are the corporations, the problem is regulation and guidelines.

[ Parent ]
Well (0.00 / 0)
Corporations will also get thousands of dollars in tax credits for each job supposedly created or retained."  

This was Obama's policy proposal after sept crash, I pointed that out in the post.

"One such provision under the Obama plan would allow businesses to reduce taxes by claiming immediate depreciation of half of their spending on new equipment, rather than spreading out that depreciation over years.

That is a new proposal I admit, but based on leaked info it is only worth 50 billion out of the 300 billion, most of which are tax cuts for middle class. if that gets him 80 votes more power to him imo and i am not so anti corporate that wants everything to go against them, don't mind a bone thrown at them since they run a lot of things and make a lot of jobs in this country.

Oh and why was my original post Hide rated? If you disagree point it out, I know for a lot of people the fact that most of these are actually what obama ran on hurts and they want to live in their outrage bubble.

[ Parent ]
Huh? (0.00 / 0)
Where does Dionne say that Obama is doing this to create a "bi-partisan image"?  The quote specifically refers to his wish that the program "pass quickly and be sustainable over time".  The speed and political sustainability of the stimulus are hardly trivial or "aesthetic" concerns. The fact that they don't fit your neat caricature of Obama as a spineless D.C. centrist doesn't mean they aren't valid and sincere.

Reread the post. (4.00 / 1)
David clearly cites the New Deal and Bush's tax cuts as legislative efforts that were passed quickly and sustainably without bi-partisan support. He clearly argued that the level of majority should not in any significant way affect how quickly the bill passes, especially since senate Republicans a very unlikely to be able to sustain a filibuster against the economic stimulus package. Also, the sustainability of the bill will be more a matter of how well it is perceived to be working to improve the economy. So, is your point that we should always take political spokespeople at face value and not actually critically analyze what they are saying?  

[ Parent ]
I did; he willfully distorts Dionne/Obama (0.00 / 0)
Just because David thinks speed/sustainability is unrelated to bi-partisan support doesn't mean Obama does.  It is a perfectly valid political calculation, and it would be perfectly valid to criticize it. But that's not what David does.  Rather than criticize the calculation, he dismisses it as a platitude and a lie, one intended as cover for Obama's "true" ambition; i.e. the pursuit of a fetishized political aesthetic/image.  It is an imputation of bad faith that is completely unwarranted by the facts.  So, no, I don't think we should take spokespeople at face value and never criticize them.  But nor should we do the same for bloggers, especially those so self-evidently vested in advancing their own narrative.  

[ Parent ]
What He Likely Wants, Anyway (0.00 / 0)
The fact that they don't fit your neat caricature of Obama as a spineless D.C. centrist doesn't mean they aren't valid and sincere.

Really? David made an ad hominem attack on Obama? What I took from David's article is he believes a ruling party with the votes should push through the most progressive bill possible rather than a compromised one more towards consensus.

It's a valid argument but where I'd disagree with David is the possible implication that this isn't the kind of proposal Obama wants all along.

[ Parent ]
But this is what he seduced us with in order to get us to volunteer for him (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
new goals, new strategy (4.00 / 2)
Thanks for raising this point. It points to a key different in governing approach between Rove/Bush and Obama.

I have a different read on that passage. I think the "be sustainable over time" part is code for "govern effectively for eight years." The Rove political innovation passing every bill with 50% + 1 is dead. It is not Obama's personality, style, or--key point--strategy.

Obama is running a strategy to effectively govern for eight years. (This is the traditional democratic approach as practiced by both parties). Bush ran a strategy to stay in office while bullying through a limited set of policies with limited appeal. They have different goals, they need different strategies.

Finally, welcome aboard as a full time writer!

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

And yet. . . (4.00 / 7)
Bush got that limited set of policies with limited appeal PASSED, and kept in effect for at least the duration of his presidency.

You cannot effectively govern by giving away the store to those who have no interest in your success (and in fact, have an interest in your failure).

[ Parent ]
agree... and, yet... (0.00 / 0)
That's the rub, right?

Is Obama really "giving away the store"? I don't see evidence of that (yet). It is absolutely worth keeping a careful eye on. Vigilance is in order, but I'm not ready to reach that conclusion.

I think what he's trying to do is make sure there is buy-in so at least the more moderate Republicans (yes, there are still some) and all of the more moderate Democrats (even more of them) maintain a strong interest in his success.

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

[ Parent ]
Really? (4.00 / 2)
I can think of two exceptions to this.

The Medicare Modernization Act was Bush's answer to the bipartisan desire for a prescription drug benefit in Medicare. And what did we get?  A midnight vote, held open longer than the rules allowed so that more resistant legislators could be whipped, on a bill written by lobbyists for the drug and insurance industries, that eventually passed by just a vote or two.  The worst of the MMA's transgressions, like Medicare Private Fee For Service plans, are still being undone six years later.

And on a policy that Bush didn't get passed, one need only look at the loony attempt to privatize Social Security. Given that 401(k)s, a privatized form of pension, have lost a collective $2 trillion in value in the current downturn, we should be eternally thankful for the failure to apply that model to Social Security.

David has ostensibly said that the Democrats of 2009 should be behaving more like the Republicans of 2002-2005.  Sorry, but that's what begat the Republicans of 2006-present.  Do we really want to go there?  David seems to think that short term gain won't get us long-term pain.  Riiiight.

[ Parent ]
Wrong (4.00 / 2)
Republicans did not lose in 2006 because they were dicks. They lost because they were dicks and all their failures came back to bite them.

People are not kept awake at night by worries about comity in congress. They worry about their standard of living. If Democrats manage to soften the recession and speed the recovery, it won't make a blind bit of difference if they spent the rest of the 111th Congress calling John Boehner a squid-fucker.

Aggression is not what brought the Republicans down. It's ineptitude.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Bad assumption (0.00 / 0)
You're assuming that because a policy is progressive it will work. And we should therefore be aggressive in ramming it through.

No sale.  You're conflating politics and policy and assuming that all we need is the latter to win elections going forward.

Need I remind you that our side is just now emerging from a wilderness we wandered into in 1964 when Medicare and Medicaid and Civil Rights got done, and the last of the New Deal coalition broke up for lack of both unifying policies AND a unifying message?

You really need to familiarize yourself with the Medicare Modernization Act because it really has raised senior citizens' standard of living.  But it was a Tom Delay bill.  Hell, he was the lead sponsor.  Yet after seniors got used to having their meds covered (Part D and the other provisions of the MMA didn't take effect until after the 2004 elections), they still didn't reward the GOP with their votes in '06 and '08.  Why?  Because they couldn't be trusted (see Foley, Cunningham, Abramoff, Libby, Ney, Craig and Stevens for reference).

You're kidding yourself if you think people will vote for someone they don't like as long as he's good on policy.  I'm a policy nerd, too, and it took me a long time and a lot of frustration to grow up and realize that in politics, it's not enough to be right (see Kerry, John).

[ Parent ]
No shit, Sherlock (0.00 / 0)
Of course I think progressive policy will work. If I didn't, why the fuck would I be hanging around here?

The 1960s were a very different set of circumstances. The Dixiecrats are more or less gone and opposition to Iraq is a lot less contentious than opposition to Vietnam was.

There's internal division, but running roughshod over Republicans won't fracture the coalition and the emerging Democratic base is trending in a more progressive description.

As for your point on MMA - that's not even remotely relevant. Republicans lost votes because they fucked up on a lot of other matters. Except in a few specific seats (PA-10, FL-16, TX-22) scandals were not a big issue. Iraq was. Look at how the 'Culture of Corruption' message bombed in the CA-50 special.

Politics matters. Bipartisanship doesn't.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Vanity (4.00 / 7)
Obama seriously needs to let go of this vanity (or delusion) of bi-partisanship. He would need a large Republican vote to achieve the post-partisan fantasy he keeps clinging to, not just a few token Rep votes here and there.

The basic fact is that the Republicans have an overall agenda above and beyond positions on legislation - and that agenda is to get back in power as quickly as possible. Contributing in any way to the success of a Democratic White House is completely contrary to that agenda, and it's just not going to happen. They will obstruct and demand more and more concessions, and then vote against the Democrats anyway.

Obama must concern himself with goals that are best for the country - not best for his desired self-image. That means forgetting about Republican support, leading from the left, and letting a Democratic majority forge the way to progress.

It Is Vanity (4.00 / 2)
In his own way, Obama's vanity is far more destructive than that of Blagojevich.  Blagojevich is only destructive to the Democratic Party, primarily in Illinois.  

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Vanity, yes (4.00 / 1)
George Bush personifies vanity. And look how a narcissist like Bush reacts when the world doesn't move in his direction. He become detached and unconcerned, willing to let things fail, because in the end, it was never really about solving our problems. It was always about him. We can only pray that Obama is not this sort of man because if he is, it is probably too late to save our country.

[ Parent ]
Psychologically Obama has spent his life (0.00 / 0)
walking in two worlds-white and black. Ellison's Invisible Man is all about that and the concept of the Marginal Man addresses it. Of course he is bipartisan. He was never able to choose one or the other. So he has spent his psychological life merging and integrating his two worlds.

Now he is consciously (?)using his life's work as a metaphor. Maybe it will work.

The Obama's are not the Kennedys. Remember the wild parties, throwing people in the swimming pool, doing the Twist which was the latest new rock dance and liberal behavior (sex and all that). The Obama's are a straight family, with straight thinking, behavior, child rearing practices, dress, food etc. They are interested in order, not wanting to experiment with any chaos. And we all know how chaotic moving to another place can be. And they will wait until the spring for things to settle down before they get a puppy. (I wish I could do that every time I get a new rescue dog.) Order and planning got them where they are so they are not going to throw that bath water out unless they are sure nothig will go out with it.They are not going to be playing touch football on the White House lawn. Nor is he going to be radical in his cabinet, his other choices, the people he will listen to, etc.

Yes he needs a radical stimulus plan. And think of single payer health care as a very radical stimulus package.

[ Parent ]
And How, Exactly Is This "CHANGE"??? (4.00 / 5)
The Dems have been rolling over like this since the early Clinton Administration.

How is another round of Voodoo Economics "change"???

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Because Now We're In Charge (0.00 / 0)
Don't you get it Paul?  We're in charge now.  THAT's what the change was about.

So my question for you is: how do you think Burnham would draw up the cleavage around economic policy today?

[ Parent ]
Being in charge is great if you don't just sit there with it (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Just another Rahmism (4.00 / 4)
"Hey, Rahm! Progressives hate my stimulus plan."

"That's good, Barack. It makes you look bipartisan."

The Progressive Cur (4.00 / 2)
Kicking the progressive cur may be fun and look good to the villagers, but it is actually not a sustainable governing strategy. Meanwhile the wolves are already circling. (Just to bury my metaphor in the ground)

[ Parent ]
It's not only Obama that looks "bipartisan." (4.00 / 1)
If this legislative strategy works (and, like you, I'll be surprised if it does), the legislation itself would also have a bipartisan halo. That's not a trivial result--especially if (when) more legislation is necessary further down the road.

Also, this process has yet to run its course. If the Republicans end up voting against the bill anyway, Dems can always let it fail and come back with a more progressive package passed with more party-line support. Then we'd get legislation that's better and a hammer to hit the GOP with.

I guess what I'm saying is that optics matter. The narrative surrounding legislation matters. Given how he ran in the election, I think Obama needs to make a good-faith effort to win bipartisan support right out of the gate, and if (when) the conservatives start acting in bad faith, he may be a good enough communicator to call them out and have people see their actions clearly.

What makes you think (4.00 / 3)
he gets more that one bite out of the apple?

You say, "Dems can always let it fail and come back with a more progressive package passed with more party-line support" but that is not likely.

If you start out tough, you can always soften up later. But if you start soft, it is much much harder to get tough later. Your credibility is shot and it's hard to get it back.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Yes every teacher knows that (0.00 / 0)
And rural redneck Bush people here are saying:

Change? What change? All the Clinton people are back.

[ Parent ]
If it works... (4.00 / 1)
...then why does it need Republican support? Surely it's better not to have bipartisan support for it, so we can keep attacking Republicans on that issue?

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
this isn't just to please David Broder (4.00 / 2)
Let's be realistic about this. Even with the perfect stimulus plan that any of us could wish for, we're still going to be in a recession economy for at least the next two years. Barring another 9/11 or Katrina style disaster, it will be the biggest issue on people's minds in the 2010 elections. And fairly or not, people are going to forget that this is Bush's recession and start blaming this on the current government.

If Obama passes a stimulus package with only Democratic support, Obama and the Democrats will be blamed for the current state of affairs - even if things are improving, they won't be improved enough to lift us out of recession by then - and we'll get slaughtered in the midterms. OTOH, a package with Republican buy-in will spread the responsibility around, and greatly improve our chances of keeping our current advantage in congress going forward.

If the price we have to pay to get that kind of political cover is only $100B in business tax cuts (yes, I said only), then that's a price I'd be willing to pay in a heartbeat.

Obama and the Democrats will be blamed (4.00 / 3)
for failure no matter what happens. That is why cautious, incremental stuff like this is actually the riskiest course.

By catering to Republicans now, Obama is guaranteeing the initiative will fail, but those same Republicans will be nowhere around when it comes to time to assign blame. It will be his baby then.

If he were to say "fuck the Republicans," and pass a plan that would lift us out of the recession, then he has a chance. That's exactly what FDR did and it worked.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Popularity certainly can help sustainability (4.00 / 2)
I do not think it is a "silly platitude" to suggest that a wider vote margin will help advance "sustainability."    The fact that FDR's programs - or others - may have stood the test of time, without bipartisan support, does not prove that bipartisan support is not helpful.

I also think that people here are underestimating the complexity and difficulty of passing any economic bill. In one passage from an article this morning, the NYT reported that liberals, moderates and conservatives all had their issues with the outline of the plan.  David Brooks separately marveled at the breadth of the plan, suggesting it is so ambitious for tackling so many issues that it is a grand risk.

Now, there is a tendency here to remark that Obama does not need GOP support. But without it, he certainly needs his own party solidly behind him, and even if the country has shifted left, the Senate is still a very mixed bag.  

So, my question is whether anyone among us has really taken a hard look at how votes are likely to break down.  To put it differently, how many "blue dogs" or centrists are really needed at this point?  I think the hard numbers are necessary before we can glibly suggest that Obama could pass a more progressive bill.

Not just Broder and the GOP -- Congressional Dems (4.00 / 1)
Obama is clearly not on or of the Left.  That's just where he's coming from, and it's been clear for a long time (even during the campaign, despite righwing squawking).

So some of this is his view of good policy.  And some is about really wanting to "change the way things are done in Washington."

But some of it is also, I think, his effort to keep the Congressional Dems from bolting.  And my guess is that he thinks they want the cover of having a bunch of GOP votes for this plan.  And he might be right.

In the end, whatever the motive, there's only one thing to do:  raise as much hell as possible, and make Congress and Obama, and all of the Forbidden City, more scared of what we'll do if they pass a shitty bill than of what corporate America will do if they pass a good one.  And I don't mean them losing some primaries.  I mean real, 1930s-style, "Holy shit, what are those crazy workers going to do next?"

The New Deal wasn't passed to save us from Capitalism, it was passed to save Capitalism from us.  It'll play out the same way this time.  More Republic Window and Doors = better plan.

Does Anyone Know Whether Republicans (4.00 / 1)
can filibuster spending bills? Even if they can, could they stand up the public censure of an economy burning while they filibuster? If not, fuck them.

Green Jobs: $115M; National Infrastructure: $200M. Centrist Veneer? Priceless? (0.00 / 0)
Well put. The people of this country want spending, want to stimulate the economy. We sure wouldn't be happy if CNN were to level with us that they are paying hundreds of millions to pacify right-wing obstructionist greed.

Don't forget the $236,000 bathroom! Just more proof that the GOP will spend your millions on the brokers and bankers but not the broke-banked public..

Obama doesn't know that it is all about to crash and burn (0.00 / 0)
and our way of life is to change drastically no matter what stimulus is put in place.

I read Kunstler, does anyone else?


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