Saturday, February 7, 2009

Stimulate This!

President Obama & Paul VolkerYears ago I worked for a company that had us pad our equipment and supply budget requests, because it was general knowledge that company heads would trim some items in the final request.

We would identify requested items numerically: those that were essential got a one, and those that were less essential, a three, four or five.

And it worked: we got most of the ones and many of the twos and threes, but rarely the fours and fives.

I can't say that this is what is happening on Capitol Hill with the Stimulus Bill, since I'm not that familiar with the Hill's culture, and only a little with the inner workings of how a bill becomes a law.

But, a little of that could be taking place: Put some extraneous crap in the bill to give the opposition something to cut, and to wrangle over, so that you get your ones, twos, and threes through without excessive wrangling from the opposition.

And although the bill was apparently cobbled together on the left, without input from the right, it wasn't long before the right began to whine about being left out of the process, accusing President Obama of neglecting his campaign pledge to bring a bipartisan tone to the Hill.

A cocktail, and a Super Bowl party later, and several Republican-demanded cuts, the Stimulus Bill received one Republican vote, no, strike that, no Republican votes. Notwithstanding the cuts, Republicans were still unhappy with the bill.

And in the Senate, Republicans revolted, insisting that the bill should be revamped to include nothing but tax cuts, and no Federal spending. I think that about 36 Senate Republicans said that they could vote for such a bill, despite information that warned that Americans hoarded some of the previous tax rebates designed to stimulate the economy.

This is how I see it: Republicans will not support this bill unless it's their bill, one geared more to tax cuts than Federal spending. And they're willing to take a partisan stand--rather than negotiate a compromise--to make that happen.

Democrats in both houses are struggling, it seems, to keep alive their vision of what the bill should be. Rather than work in a bi-partisan way, Republicans are attempting to wrest this bill from the Democrats, while insisting that President Obama and his party are the ones who're not behaving in a bi-partisan fashion.

A common Republican tactic: To deflect blame, blame the other side of doing what you're doing:

Spread the wealth among the wealthy, and call Democrats socialists. Take entrenched partisan positions, and insist that Democrats are partisan. Help create a recession, and call it Obama's Recession. Fail to uphold the Constitution, and call President Obama soft on terrorists and terrorism, for upholding the Constitution.

Everyone knows that the economy is in an abysmal mess, and falling fast. Consider the following:
1. 1.8 million jobs lost in the last three months.
2. Unemployment rate at its highest in 16 years.
3. Worst loses in 36 years.
4. Unemployment rate at 7.6 %
5. January--the largest one-month job loss since 1974.
We can do what I heard radio personality say: "We should let the banks, and the financial system fail and let economic forces dig us out our recessionary hole." But he forgot one glaring reality--it wasn't the economy that failed, it was the failure of some in the financial sector to control their greed that failed us.

Sure, we could do nothing. Just wait out the storm. And it's possible that no matter what we do, the economy may take most of this century to recover, especially if the economy collapses into a depression.

What's needed is someone who really knows the economy, and what is going on with it now, to give us solutions for a firm recovery. I'm just not sure if that person is out there, or even if he or she is being listened to.

What I do know: I don't trust those who have only recently decided to return to their fiscal conservatism after a 9-trillion-dollar hiatus. Our economic problems didn't just happen. They've been in the making for a long time, overlapping several party-controlled two-house majorities.

Where were these conservatives when President Bush proposed the first bail-out, strike that, financial rescue bill, that was weighed down with about 100 billion dollars of pork to fry up bacon to give certain congresspersons a whiff of what they could have if they supported the bill.

Now that President Obama is in the White House, the same Republicans have found their fiscal conservative conscience, and have changed their name from the Grand Old Party to the Grand Obstructionist Party.

Mind you, I don't oppose so-called Conservative Principles, just hypocrisy, no matter who's cooking it up.

We still don't have a stimulus bill, but the latest: a compromise has been struck with a few moderates on both sides of the aisle to filibuster-proof a passage of the bill.

And if you think that lobbyists are not "crawling all over this bill," think again. It's the ideal bill to get pet projects through . The bill is so big that it makes it easier for some pork to slip pass the watchful, fiscal eyes of the truest fiscal conservative.

It may take awhile to learn whether the bill is big enough to jump-start the economy. During that time, we need to get our own fiscal house in order, and, for some, that might mean renegotiating some of their bills, and sitting down with the family to decide where cuts and sacrifices can be made, and monies saved.

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