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Goldilocks Republicans

In response to the President-elect’s speech today which called for the government to do lots and do it fast, Congressional Republicans are struggling to hold back the tide of government spending. The Hill reports:

Congressional Republicans said Thursday that a financial stimulus is needed, but they are worried that the incoming administration may try to do too much, too fast. House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said that hastily passing a package at a price tag of $1 trillion may create more long-term problems than it solves in the near future. They caution that any plan must be “timely, targeted and temporary” — echoing a catch phrase used by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before the bipartisan stimulus bill was passed and signed into law in February 2008.

“Let’s [not] use the obvious need as a way to make the problem worse,” McConnell told reporters at a press conference following President- elect Obama’s address on the economy at George Mason University.

“The last thing we ought to do in this package is make long-term systemic changes that make the spending problem even worse. We don’t want to make big mistakes that exacerbate the problem we already have, which is a dramatic, eye-popping deficit,” he said.

Boehner said, “It’s very important that we find the right balance. Yes, our economy needs help, but at the end of the day, how much debt are we going to pile on future generations?”

Since the Republicans are not prepared to oppose the entire concept of a stimulus package they are reduced to negotiating on its size, the type and amount of tax cuts and whether, for example, states should receive federal money in the form of “loans.” In essence they are playing the Goldilocks role: the stimulus and the spending can be big, just not too big.

But perhaps they would do well to focus on this portion of the President-elect’s speech:

That’s why I’m calling on all Americans–Democrats and Republicans–to put good ideas ahead of the old ideological battles; a sense of common purpose above the same narrow partisanship; and insist that the first question each of us asks isn’t “What’s good for me?” but “What’s good for the country my children will inherit?”

What they are going to inherit is a mound of debt, of course. It is that realization and some popular sense of sticker shock that may aid Republicans. But of course it is the Democrats’ government, and it will be their stimulus plan. There is only so much Republicans can do. Their aim then is to provide an alternative, make whatever changes they can, and then sound the clarion call. That’s what happens when you lose an election: it becomes the other party’s burden–and opportunity–to prove they can govern and govern well.  Hopefully, the Democrats will remember the children. We’ll see.


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