Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Other Shoe

You may recall that President Obama had asked for about $1.5 trillion in stimulus spending early in the year, but was only given half.

President Obama outlined a response to the nation's intensifying job crisis Tuesday that encourages businesses to hire new workers by easing the flow of credit and implementing a series of tax cuts, but leaves important details -- including the cost of the plan -- to be hashed out by Congress.

Obama's job-creation ideas build largely on elements of the $787 billion economic stimulus package passed this year, including tax cuts for small businesses, incentives to hire new workers and a fresh round of infrastructure spending.

The president also recommended that Congress pass a "cash for caulkers" plan that would offer financial incentives for home weatherization. Senior administration officials said the program, based on the popular "cash for clunkers" automobile rebate program, would leverage hiring in construction and manufacturing -- sectors especially hard hit by the recession -- while promoting energy efficiency, resulting in long-term savings for homeowners.

Obama, who has been under pressure to lay out a specific jobs strategy, also called on Congress to extend unemployment insurance, emergency aid to cash-starved states and cities, aid to senior citizens, and health-care help for the jobless -- aid he called essential as his administration grapples with ways to reduce the nation's highest unemployment rate in more than a quarter-century.

Of course, once the naysayers in Congress and the morons on the right get a hold of this plan, it's more likely to be halved yet again, rather than take the needed steps to revitalize this economy.
I can understand some of the concern, more if the opposition was less stridently partisan, because it's clear much of the opposition is taking a page out of Rush Limbaugh's book of wishing evil on an America that repudiated and rejected their shopworn and aged tax-and-spend policies.
It's a bit disconcerting to hear that we need yet another 3/4 of a trillion dollars, especially in light of the promising economic developments I've highlighted over the past few weeks.
There's a realpolitik aspect of this that cannot be ignored: Obama needs to AED the economy, get its heart pumping right now, if he wants to hold onto the Senate in 2010. Small moves will not work. He needs a big item to point to. In a perfect world, he could sit back in the rocking chair and let things move on their own pace, occasionally adjusting the unemployment benefit, knowing that the economy is building a slow momentum.
Democracy is not a perfect world, and a nation that holds elections every two to six years must see results on its timetable.
Take Jimmy Carter. Here's a man who had some innovative ideas in governing: zero-based budgeting (meaning each department has to justify every dollar it spends each year, with no money taken for granted) and deregulation (hey, you think those airfare dropped because of Reagan? You think mortgages are hovering in the single digits because of Bush? Thank Carter.) being at the top of the list.
Yet, the fruits of his efforts were seen long after he was ejected at the end of one term, a mistake Obama clearly learned from.
This is also, in part, why the Senate withdrew the public option...sort of...from its version of healthcare reform.
A side note: first, this bill will go to the Conference Committee, where the House will almost certainly lobby for its reinsertion. This vote therefore seems to be "cover your ass" stuff. Second, a careful reading of the counterproposal, a quasi-public option overseen by a governmentall controlled non-profit (think Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), is as good as a public option.
But I digress.
There's real political issues to look after this late in the Congressional calendar, and I applaud Barack Obama for seeing to that. Now let's see how this re-stimulus plays out. My suspicion is, he's hitting the right grace notes at the right moment: home upkeep and repair, small business targeted, infrastructure particularly.