I, like the economy, am sick. I've got a head full of concrete, a chest with an iron band around it, and a nose that runs more often than Rob Blagojevich. If this post is short or incoherent, blame the rhinovirus or influenza or ebola or whatever this is. My energy level is through the floor. But, unlike the economy, I'm probably going to recover sometime this week.
With President Obama scheduled to sign the stimulus into law today, the economy is about to get a shot in the arm. But is the dosage high enough? Many economists say no.
"...Obama got more or less what he asked for, he almost certainly didn't ask for enough. We're probably facing the worst slump since the Great Depression," wrote Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman last week. "The Congressional Budget Office, not usually given to hyperbole, predicts that over the next three years there will be a $2.9 trillion gap between what the economy could produce and what it will actually produce. And $800 billion, while it sounds like a lot of money, isn't nearly enough to bridge that chasm."
"It is meaningful, but I do not think it is enough," Mark Zandi [chief economist of Moody's Economy.com] told Fox News Sunday. "I think the economy is in a very difficult situation. The difficulties require a larger package, and I think a year from now we will be talking about stimulus again, yes."
On the other hand, while I don't know how Zandi feels about it, Krugman is famously impatient with the political process. Obama may not have asked for more because he knew he wouldn't get it. It may be that the plan was always to go back for more. Republicans have been saying "we only get one shot at this," but that's about as true as most of the things Republicans say. We may be talking stimulus a year from now, but we'll also being talking Obama federal budget.
How hard will that be? Not to be cliched, but a year's a lifetime in politics. Anything is possible and no one's managed to develop a working crystal ball. But politics in a democracy are literally a game -- a competition with winners and losers -- and Obama seems to be winning right now. That's about as clear as it gets.
But those aren't the only clues to the future we can find. If one team is winning, then another is losing. You would expect the losing team to make some sort of adjustment to their strategy. But these are Republicans we're talking about here and, apparently, they don't do that until their current strategy has completely failed. The party that kept telling us we had to "stay the course" in Iraq seems incapable of changing course until their current bearings actually put them on the rocks. It's that Reagan optimism, no matter how bad things are going, there's always a chance that it'll work later. They may be sailing straight for the rocks, but they're confident the rocks will move out of the way.
But, as NYT columnist Frank Rich points out, the rocks obstinantly refuse to move. Republicans, armed with their sunny optimism, decided on a course and sailed straight toward the lighthouse.
...The stimulus package arrived with the price tag and on roughly the schedule Obama had set for it. The president’s job approval percentage now ranges from the mid 60s (Gallup, Pew) to mid 70s (CNN) — not bad for a guy who won the presidency with 52.9 percent of the vote. While 48 percent of Americans told CBS, Gallup and Pew that they approve of Congressional Democrats, only 31 (Gallup), 32 (CBS) and 34 (Pew) percent could say the same of their G.O.P. counterparts.
You probably think those numbers look bad for Republicans, but party members don't see themselves as being on the rocks yet, so everything's just going awesome. If you're not completely screwed, then it's all working out great.
[New York Times:]
[Representative Eric Cantor, the House #2 Republican] said he had studied [Newt] Gingrich’s years in power and had been in regular touch with him as he sought to help his party find the right tone and message. Indeed, one of Mr. Gingrich’s leading victories in unifying his caucus against Mr. Clinton’s package of tax increases to balance the budget in 1993 has been echoed in the events of the last few weeks.
“I talk to Newt on a regular basis because he was in the position that we are in: in the extreme minority,” he said.
“I’d like to tell you Cantor did a brilliant job, but the truth is that Pelosi and Obey pushed the members into his arms,” Gingrich said. “[Republicans] have been good at developing alternatives so they don’t leave their guys out there chanting no.”
Unfortunately, their "alternatives" were almost identical to the policies that got us where we are. They didn't stand a chance, because they weren't meant to. They were meant to support the Republican argument that Democrats just want to spend your money. They weren't solutions, they weren't even arguments, they were just sops to the GOP base -- tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts.
So Republicans, rejected in huge numbers twice by the voters, their polling numbers in the toilet, and having just suffered a huge setback, think they're winning. They think this is all working for them, since it hasn't actually killed them yet. Optimists until the end, they wear big stupid grins as they bear down on the shore.
And I thought I was sick and incoherent.