Commentary Magazine


Flotsam and Jetsam

The White House was partially right about a consensus among economists on the stimulus plan. The catch: most think it’s junk. “The compromise economic stimulus plan agreed to by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won’t stimulate economic activity, according to a range of respected economists.” You mean the opponents have reasons to oppose the president’s legislative masterpiece?

Larry Lindsay explains how things went off the rails: “The problems began with the inexplicable decision by the administration not to submit its own economic stimulus package, but instead delegate the job to Nancy Pelosi and the barons on the House Appropriations Committee. Appropriations is the reptilian brain of the political process. It is where all the back scratching, logrolling, and pork barreling gets done. Macroeconomic coherence is just not part of the skill set of House Appropriations members. So even rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure got short shrift. Instead, the package was loaded with largesse for fellow politicians and civil service employees back home.”

Phil Levy: “The crafting and selling of the stimulus package have been neither transparent, innovative, calm, nor bipartisan. Much of the package was crafted behind closed doors. The rush to push money out quickly left no time to develop creative new approaches. The president’s dire warnings of doom did little to soothe fears, particularly in those who had doubts about the stimulus package’s efficacy. And hopes for bipartisanship may have been the biggest victim of the endeavor. While President Obama was willing to exchange pleasantries with Republicans, those Republicans were largely excluded from the crafting of the bill and voted overwhelmingly against it.”

Via Mickey Kaus, comes this spot on welfare reform. The immediate victim is Harry Reid, but doesn’t it work for (rather, against) every Democrat?

Chuck Todd seems miserable in his new job (and that was before he read the comments to his post complaining about access in the White House.) Maybe he and David Gregory should swap jobs.

Once again, remarkably, I essentially agree with Glenn Greewald: “Republican groups demand from politicians support for their beliefs.  By contrast, as Judis describes, Democratic groups — including (perhaps especially) liberal activist groups — now (with some exceptions) lend their allegiance to the party and its leader regardless of how faithful the party leadership is to their beliefs.” Translation: much of the left blogosphere long ago sacrificed intellectual honesty (he calls it “independence”) in favor of political boosterism.

Is it true that “few expected” a repeat of zero Republican votes in the House for the stimulus? Politico needs to talk to more Republicans. The House GOP hasn’t been this united since they arrived as the majority in 1995.

An absurd headline: “Obama to Shift Focus to Budget Deficit.” Huh?? So they’re going to cut expenditures (or raise taxes) because a huge deficit is a mortal danger to our economic health. If you are confused, think how dumbfounded the financial markets and the rest of the world are. But if they are looking for some cost savings, I’ve got a great idea to eliminate $787B plus interest.

Wonderful news about Justice Ginsburg’s health situation.

One of the worst aspects of the stimulus bill: billions to the states with a heavy subsidy to add to the welfare rolls. Michael Tanner of CATO writes: “By some estimates, the stimulus bill contains roughly $250 billion in welfare spending, another $6,700 for every poor man woman and child in this country, along with the erosion of the 1996 reforms. It can be counted on to “stimulate” the loss of another generation to welfare dependency.” Well, if Hillary runs in 2016, she can promise to pass welfare reform again.

An Obama and Geithner bear market? Well the combination of the monstrous fiscal stimulus and the non-existent bank bailout has not cheered the markets. Maybe the Obama economic gurus should have tried something to spur investment and private sector job growth.

Bradley Schiller agrees it is time to stop the fear-mongering: “Mr. Obama’s analogies to the Great Depression are not only historically inaccurate, they’re also dangerous. Repeated warnings from the White House about a coming economic apocalypse aren’t likely to raise consumer and investor expectations for the future. In fact, they have contributed to the continuing decline in consumer confidence that is restraining a spending pickup. Beyond that, fearmongering can trigger a political stampede to embrace a “recovery” package that delivers a lot less than it promises. A more cool-headed assessment of the economy’s woes might produce better policies.”

Jeb Bush calls for a shadow cabinet. Judd Gregg for Commerce Secretary?

What is wrong with California? More importantly, why does Meg Whitman want to be governor? Maybe managing a successful business that sells junk is good preparation. It won’t be a piece of cake, that’s for sure.

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