There are a couple schools of thought as to how to save the President’s stimulus package. One maintains that it doesn’t need saving. The President most likely has the votes to ram the current bill — or a very close variation of it — through the Senate, just as he did for the House. He then can get his sprawling $825B bag of junky liberal programs. But that leaves him with a problem: he will have a $825B bag of junky liberal programs. It won’t be bipartisan, it will worsen his budgetary problems, and it will not do much about real long-term needs — or short-term ones either.

David Brooks suggests a re-do, picking up on the advice of Clinton-era budget director Alice Rivlin (apparently the only ex-Clintonite not in the current administration):

Strip out the permanent government programs. Many of them are worthy, but we can have that debate another day. Make the short-term stimulus bigger. Many liberal economists have been complaining it is too small, so replace the permanent programs with something like a big payroll tax cut, which would help the working class.
Add in a fiscal exit strategy so the whole thing is budget neutral over the medium term. Finally, coordinate the stimulus package with plans to shore up the housing and financial markets. Until those come to life, no amount of stimulus will do any good.

Republicans would still push for significant business tax rate cuts to spur investment and more defense spending in lieu of domestic programs, but it would be a start. At least the bill would get past the biggest problem: the President, who everyone assumes knows better, won’t sacrifice his credibility defending a bill that everyone knows to be very bad. As things presently stand, he looks a bit foolish defending the handiwork of Pelosi. He is, quite frankly, on the verge of losing not just the patina of bipartisanship but the respect of the chattering class. And it’s only the first two weeks of his presidency.

It’s not to late to make a u-turn. And it would benefit the President and the entire country if he did.

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