Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 29, 2009
By: Hilzoy

Bipartisanship And The Stimulus

As Steve noted earlier, the stimulus bill passed the House without a single Republican vote. I'm glad it passed. I'm also glad that Obama tried as hard as he did to get bipartisan support, and I don't think that the fact that he didn't get it shows that the attempt was misguided. There are good reasons to try for bipartisan support regardless of how likely you think you are to succeed.

If you do succeed, then both parties have some ownership of the stimulus bill, neither will be as eager to politicize it, and it will be harder for either to use it to beat up the other. This is good. If you try hard, and publicly, to attract Republican support, but fail, then Republicans look like intransigent ideologues who would rather try to score political points than actually deal with the serious problems the country faces. You, by contrast, look reasonable: you tried to reach out, but your efforts were rejected.

Obviously, this only works if your efforts look serious. If Obama had gone to the Republicans and said: I propose a bill entirely made up of things Democrats really want and you really hate, but please, do join us in supporting it!, that wouldn't work at all. But he didn't do that. He went the extra mile. When Republicans protested about particular things, he dropped some of them (though not all: he was not, for instance, willing to compromise on refundable tax credits, and he was right not to compromise on that one.) There's a fine line between being willing to compromise and being willing to surrender, and I think Obama generally stayed on the right side of it, while being open enough to compromise that he will get real credit for trying.

The House Republicans, by contrast, looked silly. They were carping about tiny bits of the stimulus (the capitol mall?!). They changed the bits they objected to from one day to the next, and looked for all the world like what I take them to be: people who were determined to oppose the stimulus bill from the outset.

The function of trying to win bipartisan support, it seems to me, is to clarify things to the American people. If the House Republicans could be induced to support the bill, that becomes clear, and everyone would have been better off. If, on the other hand, they were bound and determined to oppose it, no matter what, that also becomes clear. Neither would have been clear had Obama not bothered to try.

To my mind, it is generally a good idea to act on the assumption that your opponents are reasonable people. (There are, of course, exceptions: e.g., when you don't have time.) It's the right thing to do morally. But it's also generally the right thing to do tactically. I think this is especially true when you suspect that your opponents are, in fact unreasonable. You should always hope to be proven wrong, but if you are not -- if your opponents are, in fact, unreasonable -- then by taking the high road, you can ensure that that fact will be plain to the world.

Hilzoy 12:07 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (56)

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No. He should have started with more obviously lefty things so that when he gave them up he looked better and still had a lot more good things in the bill. The optics are better that way than this way when what you get is something that will probably not do enough and slights some very critical areas.

Posted by: MNPundit on January 29, 2009 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for some sanity, Hilzoy. There are a lot of liberals running around like their heads are cut off because Obama, after campaigning he would reach out to the other side for two years, actually did so during his first week.

Posted by: Jason on January 29, 2009 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Absolutely! Obama did the right thing. Now the Republicans have shown who they really are. (Did we have any real doubts?) Hope they keep this up. Last fall's election debacle for the Republicans will be a picnic compared to what will happen to them in two years.

Posted by: Bill on January 29, 2009 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's efforts will come to naught unless an all-out campaign is mounted immediately, to publicize in nauseating detail (line-item by line-item) exactly how every reasonable effort at compromise was rejected by the Goofy Old Party.

Posted by: rbe1 on January 29, 2009 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

I don't like the House Republican's politicization of the stimulus package; which their actions clearly demonstrated.

However, what else were they going to do? Let's say 30% of their caucus supported the bill, then President Obama and Nancy Pelosi could legitimately claim true bi-partisan support. I doubt Pelosi would have gotten much of the credit, but you can pretty much count on it that Obama would have gotten most of the credit, with a little bit of gloating from Boehner for the cameras.

A year from now, when some of the results are showing their could be a variety of outcomes:
1) great success; economy on the rebound. By then Obama will have gotten all the credit for getting the country on track, and Republicans, as a third wheel could have 'tried' to claim credit, but not really.
2) can't really tell; it's not worse, but it's not better. Republicans wouldn't be able to blame the president, because they supported it as well.
3) economy is even worse now; stimulus didn't work Everybody is to blame.

So... The upside for the Republicans going along was minimal. If the stimulus plan fails, as they are surely hoping, now they can claim that they knew all along and you will never hear the end of it.

Just a different opinion. I think they looked at all the options, and are going for broke. Is it the right thing for the country? When was the last time House Republicans did something 'right' for the country?

Posted by: bruno on January 29, 2009 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Certainly he did the right thing by reaching out to the Repubs, but as has been said before, if he's giving something up and the Republicans get some of what they want, then Democrats need to get something in return, like at least a few Republican votes. They really only needed to have about 20-30% of Republicans vote for the bill for them to look like they are being rationale, and not like obstinate, petulant 3-year olds. The nation just got another look at why they rejected Republicans and more validation for why it was the right choice.

I think Obama and Pelosi should open the door to bipartisanship every single time, but they should be less willing to give up so much without getting something in return.

Posted by: Taritac on January 29, 2009 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

OOPS about the bold in the previous post.
Hopefully the bill will pass in the Senate.

Then it goes into committee, because there are certainly a few things Senators and House members do NOT agree on.

Once that comes out and gets voted on again, it wouldn't surprise me that several of the House Republicans will vote for the 'compromise' bill. Especially the ones who are residing in districts leaning more towards Democratic control.

It will be interesting to see what happens next week on that one.

Obama may still end up with a bi-partisan bill. All the House Republicans would have to show for then is that they truly are jackasses, who have no clue when to put Country First

Posted by: bruno on January 29, 2009 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

bruno: when I read your question "what else were they going to do?", I thought: how about what's best for the country? But then I read further and saw that you got there first. ;)

Posted by: hilzoy on January 29, 2009 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

From whom will the public learn that the Republicans were unreasonable. The media who are crying about how those bad Democrats were wrong, wrong, wrong and larded the bill with pork? The Democrats who are now on the defensive?

What portion of the public reads the lefty and liberal blogspheres combined?

Posted by: Gar Lipow on January 29, 2009 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans don't just look like intransigent ideologues. They are intransigent ideologues. Have you not been paying attention since Gingrich/94? I can guarantee you if the shoe was on the other foot (and was for 6 years of dubya) the republicans would be coddling no one, no holds barred, no prisoners taken, scorched earth. Why liberals always fall for this scam is beyond me. Will be plain to the world. In what parallel universe are you living in? Its time for the gloves to come off. Republicans are in the minority because of their abject failures. Let them attempt to bite the outstretched hand. It is time to take theirs off at the neck. No more mr. nice guy, no more being reasonable with the frothing pit bulls of the right puleeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzz! It's hammering time.


Posted by: mickster on January 29, 2009 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

Agreed, thanks for making this point. I would add this though: If you go out of your way to compromise and are rebuffed, then people can rightly expect that you won't be as accommodating next time. If you keep giving in though, you just look like a weakling.

Posted by: stand on January 29, 2009 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK
The media who are crying about how those bad Democrats were wrong, wrong, wrong and larded the bill with pork?

It doesn't matter whether you're a conservative or a progressive; when the pork in that stimulus package arrives in your district, and you've heard President Obama explaining how it is working all over the US, they'll have to think twice about complaining.

Of course they'll be complaining, they don't know how else to live. I live in a Republican district, and our local newspaper even endorsed McCain 2 weeks before the election - go figure.

Today's edition was already talking how the local school district should be spending the 9 million estimated windfall. How the estimated millions in funds for infrastructure should be used, and many more conservative ideas on how to spend it. There was no mention of the pork in the discussion of the money.

As a typical conservative rag, they talk about the pork spending in a different section of the paper, so it looks like the one has nothing to do with the other.

Sadly enough; most conservative voters wouldn't know they're one and the same anyway.

Posted by: bruno on January 29, 2009 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK
Why liberals always fall for this scam is beyond me.

It's in their nature: it's giving republicans another chance, turning the other cheek, hoping for the best, assuming that conservatives learn from their mistakes, and many more idealistic notions that don't get through House Republican's thick heads.

Is it frustrating? Obsolutely, but I think that Obama is hoping that regular conservatives, watching this on Fox News, will eventually start thinking otherwise.

Yes, even conservatives are losing their jobs, are upside down in their mortgages, without health insurance.

All conservatives are humans; not all humans are conservatives. So it's up to Obama to educate them into being more human, and less conservative in their stance.

Posted by: bruno on January 29, 2009 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

re: I think that Obama is hoping that regular conservatives, watching this on Fox News, will eventually start thinking otherwise.

That's the scam. Maybe this time Lucy won't move the football when Charley Brown tries to kick it. Maybe this time reason and rationality and the best interests of the american people will prevail. Spend some time listening to the reality of right wing radio: Michael Savage, Mark Levine, Limbaugh, etc. Listen to their callers. This is the conservative right wing mindset. Call in and have reasonable chat with Rush, Savage, etc. Obama has committed the ultimate sin: he has insulted Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh wants Obama to fail ergo all 188 of republicans in house vote against recovery. In spite of Obama's history making rationality and outreach. Its time for a new approach. Iron fist in the velvet glove comes to mind. Dems have been given the power, its time to use it.

Posted by: mickster on January 29, 2009 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Gar Lipow has it right, I'm afraid. The media coverage is wall to wall portraying Democrats as pork pushing pussies.

Obama got played like a fiddle. My great fear about his candidacy was always that he actually *believed* that shit about a new kind of politics that he was spouting. Hopefully he'll take the lesson he's been taught.

Posted by: tavella on January 29, 2009 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

Sample of main stream right wing thought via Mark Levine:

"With the passing of the stimulus package bill in the House earlier Wednesday, it is now official - the Democrats are now socialists. They have showed (sic) their true colors. Mark commends and applauds the Republicans, because not one Republican voted in favor of the bill. What the liberals want us to embrace is a soft tyranny that is against everything that the nation was founded on. Obama wants us to surrender our individual liberty and property, in order to accommodate him and his ideology."

The above is beyond paranoid. This is John Birch Society wackiness in the mainstream of conservative thought.


Posted by: mickster on January 29, 2009 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

What is totally absent from hilzoy's posting (and, apparently, from hilzoy's thinking) is that the whole thing might be bad policy.

It's over a trillion dollars, for heaven's sake! That's a lot of money! If even a quarter of it is wrongly placed, or misplaced, or unneeded then that is one enormous policy failure.

But that matters not one whit, does it? It's all politics, all republican hating, all the time. Nothing else matters.

Posted by: a on January 29, 2009 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

Conversation! Let the Republicans talk, give 'em the mike. Let them explain their position.

Anytime your arguments are better, letting the other guy speak is a benefit.

Posted by: tomj on January 29, 2009 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

bruno said:
All conservatives are humans; not all humans are conservatives. So it's up to Obama to educate them into being more human, and less conservative in their stance.

And humans aren't rational animals, they're rationalizing animals.

Conservatives have spent the last 8 years wrecking the economy (admittedly, with a lot of help from the spineless Democratic "leadership"). The county has endured an eight year test of conservative theories of supply-side economics, privatization and deregulation and now, to borrow from Jeremiah Wright, the chickens have come home to roost.

And yet, in 2010, an awful lot of voters will be persuaded that the problem with the economy is that the government is spending too much. They will believe that if we just cut taxes enough, particularly the capital gains tax rate and the corporate tax rate, that the Supply-side Fairy will float across the land sprinkling her magical pixie dust to make the economy grow for everyone. Bridges, roads and water pipes will never need to be replaced. Schools will improve without any additional money until every child's test score will be above average. And jobs will be secure and pay well without the need for any communistic labor unions.

Yes, Americans are that stupid.

The Republicans are never going to recognize the error of their ways. Their economic theories are a matter of faith, and no amount of evidence will change their minds. They are no different from the parents who believe in faith healing who allow their child to die from an easily cured infection.

If your house is on fire, there is no middle ground between your desire to pour in water and the Republican who tells you that what you need to do is pour in gasoline.

The only way to prevent Obama's agenda of "change" from being derailed in 22 months is to drive a stake through the heart of the fraud that is supply-side economics. And the only way to do that is for the president to bypass the corporate-controlled media and talk directly to the American people.

Get some of the writers from Sesame Street to explain economics in terms that fans of NASCAR, the Real World and Ultimate Fighting can understand. Take the people by the hand and spoon-feed them the facts -- how cutting taxes may stimulate the economy but not enough to replace the lost revenue. Show people the direct cause and effect between deregulation and the mortgage meltdown. Work in girls in bikinis bouncing on a trampoline if that's what it takes to get people to listen.

And who knows, maybe a few journalists might even learn something.

Posted by: SteveT on January 29, 2009 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

What Gar Lipow said. The media that reaches almost all Americans, is almost all pro-Republican.


"REPORT: GOP Lawmakers Outnumber Democratic Lawmakers 2 To 1 In Stimulus Debate On Cable News"

Posted by: anonymous guy on the internet on January 29, 2009 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

a said:

What is totally absent from hilzoy's posting (and, apparently, from hilzoy's thinking) is that the whole thing might be bad policy.

It's over a trillion dollars, for heaven's sake! That's a lot of money! If even a quarter of it is wrongly placed, or misplaced, or unneeded then that is one enormous policy failure.

Basic first aid says that if a diabetic is in shock, you give them sugar. The shock could be caused by either too much sugar or too much insulin in their blood. If the person's blood has too much sugar, a little more won't hurt them. But if the person's blood has too much insulin and you do nothing, they will die. If you give them more insulin, they'll die even quicker.

Our economy can absorb a couple hundred billion dollars of wasted spending. Hell, the Iraq war is still draining ten billion dollars each month. What the economy can't absorb is unemployment going up to 10 percent.

Hopefully, just like during the FDR administration, we'll keep trying things. Some of them will work and some of them won't. But the two things we can't do is to do nothing and hope the economy gets better, and apply more of the conservative's voodoo economic theories that got us into this mess in the first place.

Posted by: SteveT on January 29, 2009 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

I also think that Hilzoy is right. However, it continues to bug me (and I think Paul Krugman pointed this out first)that the hyper-partianship of Washington is a general problem of the political culture. Actually, it is the result of deliberate decisions by the Republican party to pursue a political strategy of division and polarization.

Actually, I don't really blame them. After all, there underlying paradigms are all shot, so what other chance do they have to win other than relying on scare tactics and wedge issues?

Posted by: James M on January 29, 2009 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK

Correction. I meant to write:

However, it continues to bug me (and I think Paul Krugman pointed this out first)that media refers to the hyper-partianship of Washington as a general problem of the political culture.

Posted by: James M on January 29, 2009 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

As others have said, this might have worked as Hilzoy says, if we had a fair and balanced press. The press has more or less uniformly reported that Obama "failed in his efforts at bipartisanship." Even the BBC chose to put it this way today: "It looks as if Obama is going to have to work harder to get that bipartisan support." This is the worst outcome imaginable from this situation. The GOP are hoping the stimulus will fail and they can blame the Obama administration. Plus a democratic President just let a discredited minority party, responsible for the whole crisis, in the house, spit in his face. The optics are horrible and the press will not use the word "obstruction" (much less "filibuster" in the Senate!) in relation to the GOP, no matter what they do. Unfortunately Reid has helped to create this climate. The facts on the ground are utterly irrelevant to this press.

As if all that isn't bad enough we have people like Summers, likewise responsible for the climate of deregulation that caused the collapse, shifting the already paltry money from mass transit to highways. Real green. Real investment in the future. Real good use of crisis to make fundamental change toward energy independence. And still getting zero GOP votes. A total fiasco.

Posted by: q on January 29, 2009 at 3:34 AM | PERMALINK

This is slightly off topic but I'm seriously considering donating a flash-app that mirrors that of the Dermitage advert but features John Boehner instead of the blond woman with dark circles and wrinkled skin. John has the circles and wrinkles and I would prefer to draw swastikas with the magic Sharpie on his forehead instead of hers. It would certainly seem much more appropriate! Also, if that's the former president's therapist, I say you get what you pay for, also I'm no fashion consultant but that guy looks lika a used car salesman; then again, so did Bush. Just an idea..

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on January 29, 2009 at 3:59 AM | PERMALINK

So, I have a question:

Let's say you're right. Obama has shown everyone how silly and unreasonable the Republicans are.

And so therefore... what? What will Obama and the Democrats do with this?

There is no value in a "success" if you don't use it.

Will we now see, for instance, less pre-surrendering to Republican nonsense in future legislation? I sincerely doubt it but I'd love to be wrong about that.

Tactical victories in furtherance of an ever-delayed, ever-undefined goal, and at the cost of bad policies, are not any great cause for cheer.

Posted by: tatere on January 29, 2009 at 5:04 AM | PERMALINK

Two years away from the next election the GOP is trying to brand themselves as "the opposition." They couldn't give two hoots about what's best for the American people. They are looking at the survival of their ideology and their party.

They probably figure that for now they have room to posture given they weren't going to win the stimulus vote anyway. Voting as a bloc keeps Rush Limburger off your back so you don't have to beg forgivness like that pitifully weak Georgia Republican, Phil "No Balls" Gingrey.

I bet that in 18 months you begin to see some northern and western Republicans, maybe Floridians, start to compromise here and there. Obama always needs to keep the compromise door open, you never know when a vote here and there will put your preferred policy through the Congress. Specter's flip flop on Holder's nomination is a case in point. You don't want to gratuitously alienate the leadership.

Obama's a Chicago pol, after all. He learned from the pros.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 29, 2009 at 6:08 AM | PERMALINK

I agree, Obama did the right thing by making concessions. Unfortunately it was to no avail. You give a little, you take a little. But the republicans were unwilling to do that. So they took to the airwaves with false and misleading talking points that the media never challenged, but happily repeated.

I do not know if the republican spin is having an effect on the public. Their context is framed in terms designed to make democrats look irresponsible for spending: $200 million for grass; $335 million for condoms, etc...

Apparently the short and long-term economic benefits creating jobs and saving the government hundreds of billions of dollars are less important than political grandstanding.

According to ThinkProgress: If vaccines were provided for every elderly person government health care costs would be reduced by $1 billion a year! And effective control of hyper-tension would save Medicare $890 billion dollars over a twenty-five year span.

Matt Yglesias made a comment directed to the media for not challenging the conservatives when they

'simultaneously complain that we cannot afford large new *temporary* deficit spending, but insist we can afford large new *permanent* tax cuts.'

A few, who recently suggested the economy is not nearly as dire as Obama says it is, are accusing him of fear mongering.

Meanwhile people are suffering and angry. The public is in no mood for politicians playing politics with their lives.

Hopefully the republicans will come around eventually. If they don't, it won't be because Obama did not try.

Posted by: serena1313 on January 29, 2009 at 6:41 AM | PERMALINK

I have updated my plan for the stimulus money.

As you all know, my stimulus goal is to get the Fresno City council to meter waste pickup, so as to remove the greatest cause of idle CO2 wastage in Fresno.

I have decided the city will just mount cell phones on their trucks with GPS. Everything else is done using the web and a little software.

Total cost per truck, including installation, $200. Number of trucks, 50. Total cost $10,000, but let's say $20,000.

Total multiplier?

The amount of trash pickup will be reduced by 20%, using an approximate Keynesian multiplier, the total trash removed will be 1.5 times that, (Rhomer), thus we will see a total of 30% reduction in trash all up and down the supply chain.

Given the budget for trash pick up of $20 million, then the total savings will be $6 million for a $20,000 investment.

Wow, now that is the way to use idle resources!!

So, my test is simple. In about two weeks the Fresno City council will announce they need $10,000 for a $6 million in savings.

If the City of Fresno takes stimulus money and continues its wasteful garbage practices, then I know we are in for a much more severe contraction.

Posted by: MattYoung on January 29, 2009 at 6:43 AM | PERMALINK

matt lauer was SCOLDING robert gibbs, obama's secretary, just now, saying that obama needs to go tell those house democrats to moderate themselves because it is nancy pelosi's fault that the stimulus bill didn't pass.

i was never so glad that my tv is going dark on february 17th. thank you, congress, for voting with the corporations to not extend that deadline!

sons of bitches.

Posted by: karen marie on January 29, 2009 at 7:12 AM | PERMALINK

err ... didn't pass with any republican votes.

Posted by: karen marie on January 29, 2009 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the GOP is obstructionist and that is why their poll numbers suck.
Yes, the media gives their spokespeople a disproportionate amount of time, but the result has been that their poll numbers still suck. When people see them, they SEE them for what they are.
The GOP is at the bottom of a deep hole and Obama keeps lending them shovels.

Posted by: tom in ma on January 29, 2009 at 7:20 AM | PERMALINK

We'll see what game Obama is playing a week from Monday or so, when the House and Senate get together to agree on their compromise version. If he's tough, then you'll see the House strip out a lot of the GOP-bait in conference and send a streamilned bill closer to what the Dems wanted originally for final passage.

More likely though the Senate will have its way, which is shaping up to be even more business tax breaks with lousy historic records of encouraging job creation.

Obama is a creature of the Senate, where the just about the only genuine left-wing voice on economic matters is Bernie Sanders, the (real) socialist from Vermont. Hell, even Barbara Boxer, Pelosi friend, wants to sneak in a few more billions in the form of that "tax break for companies shipping jobs overseas" Dems like to rail against on the campaign trail.

So I guess I'm just saying, don't count on much. He's not getting suckered, he's just reverting to form. We're the ones who got suckered.

Posted by: scarpy on January 29, 2009 at 7:41 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you Hilzoy. It is nice to see that someone on the progressive blogosphere understands that Obama is trying to act like an adult.

I have little use for the Republicans in Congress but they do represent over 100 million Americans. As a result, they deserve to be heard. President Obama listened to them and compromised where appropriate. That is competent leadership, and I for one and happy to see it.

Posted by: Blue Neponset on January 29, 2009 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

It has now been one hour, and the City of Fresno still has not announced a restructuring to meter waste pick up.

One would think that with Obama working so hard to get government more efficient that Obama would have called the mayor personally to get the waste pick up metered, right away, simply to prevent the continued and useless CO2 plumage generated by the city. After all, our mayor was just in Washington DC, one would think that stopping local and massive CO2 pollution by our central California governments would have been top priority.

I am beginning to think that Obama's commitment to CO2 pollution reduction is simply a scam to create more, not less, wastage of our environment!

Posted by: M on January 29, 2009 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously, this only works if your efforts look serious.

I second those who point out that the problem here is that the first arbiters of whether the Donks' efforts "look serious" is the same corporate media that has been giving free play to GOP spin since Ronald Reagan.

Posted by: Gregory on January 29, 2009 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

Look at all the waste, only a fool would be pleased at the outcome. Just the same old pig with a new dress.

Posted by: david on January 29, 2009 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

You neglected to mention that the vote actually WAS bipartisan--in opposition. 11 Democrats voted against it, too. This is a monstrous pork-laden abomination that does way too little to stimulate the economy, and has frightening levels of reckless spending. Someone above said, "Their context is framed in terms designed to make democrats look irresponsible for spending: $200 million for grass; $335 million for condoms, etc..." That isn't framing. It's citing actual figures and allocations. Here's another example: Page 41: The Coast Guard wants more than $572 million for “Acquisition, Construction, & Improvements” They claim these funds will create 1,235 new jobs. Crunch the numbers and this brings the cost of “creating” each job to a staggering $460,000+. You Progressives can stick your heads in the sand, and rationalize this all you want. This is a bad, very partisan bill. You may feel you are entitled to it, as you did, indeed, win the election. But don't pee in my ear, and tell me it's raining.

Posted by: BillyBobSchranzberg on January 29, 2009 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

But BillyBob, didn't Nancy, just a few months ago, in a hysterical frenzy, brought on by Krugman, just give $350 billion to the Big Swinging Dicks in the investment business?

If you are against this Obama payoff, then how about this compromise I am suggesting.

Pull the remaining $350 billion in TARP gifts to the wealthy, courtesy of Nancy, and just leave $350 billion for Obama to pay off his politicals, and we are even.

I mean, the essential problem here is Ricardian equivalence. We know this stuff will not generate jobs and we will have to increase taxes very soon, in the middle of a worsening economic downturn.

Posted by: MattYoung on January 29, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

I am sick and tired of seeing this obvious horseshit from normally sensible people like Hilzoy. Voters in 2010 and 2012 will neither remember nor care that Obama in January 2009 took a meeting with some Republicans. They will vote based on how the economy is doing and the Democrats have ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OWNERSHIP of the economy, regardless of any attempts at "bipartisan" posturing, because they're the party in power. You may not think that's
fair, but there's massive evidence that that's how people vote.

The correct course, for both policy and politics, would have been to pass the best bill the Democrats could possibly pass, and screw the Republicans. Obama has now shown he's capable of being as clueless as Charlie Brown, and he's going to pay for that until he steps up and shows he's learned his lesson and can't be rolled.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 29, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

First, the ratio of Republicans to Democrats (White House, Congress, or anyone else) appearing on the various news shows I watch (which lean towards the least conservative I can find) is about 4:1. The propaganda catapults are being aimed at the Democratic position, not being controlled by Democrats. It may be that the right wing echo chamber is simply too big to master, but I do not see either Pelosi or the White House using their pulpits this morning to advance Democratic positions. Instead, we see the White House talking about 3rd innings. If the object is to allow ones opponents to take enough rope to hang themselves, it is important to keep the prospect of a hanging firmly in their, and the public's, minds.

Posted by: Eric on January 29, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Geithner says:

"it was important to keep details about loans in the portfolio confidential in order to allow the asset manager the flexibility to manage the assets in a way that maximizes the value of portfolio and mitigates risk of loss to the taxpayer.

Obama says:

"a new era of government openness as he took office last week, issuing a statement telling agencies to adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure in responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. "

Late yesterday, Geithners office put hundreds of pages about the fund on the departments Web site. They did not include documents describing the guaranteed assets. [Some 10 trillion in guarantees the taxpayer put up promising that government would not make matters worse and thus government should not reasonably expect to pay off this 10 trillion.]

So, we have Geinther protecting information because he does not want us to freak out that if the Obama "stimulus" fails in whole or part, we will be stuck with an addition of multiples of trillion in guarantees.

Posted by: MattYoung on January 29, 2009 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Geithner, Summers, et al. don't give a crap about ordinary taxpayers. Their interest is in protecting bank and Wall Street execs and shareholders. Obama better understand that voters are not so stupid that they won't figure that out eventually.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 29, 2009 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

As reported by the press a month ago:

"All three advisers whom Mr. Obama will officially name on Monday and Tuesday have been followers of the economic formula that came to be called Rubinomics: balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, a combination that was credited with fueling the prosperity of the 1990s."

So, these advisers have changed their tune, have they? If their change of tune does not yield the same results that their old tune did under Clinton, then expect Obama to put us all on the hook for those trillions in loan guarantees that they refuse to disclose, even though Obama tells them to.

Posted by: M on January 29, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Felix Salmon says:

"Sorry, but I'm going to keep on talking about it [bank nationalization] , just because it solves at a stroke the problem of valuing the bad assets that the government is thinking of buying at an absolutely astonishing cost of $3-4 trillion."

That is just the start of the guarantees that we are making, multiple trillions of dollars. If stimulus does not make resources more productive, then we are all up to our necks, both parties.

So you see, that is why I am testing our local stimulus here in Fresno CA, because I know that if the city can be persuaded by Obama to invest a small portion of stimulus in metering waste pick up, then resources may likely be put to better use.

Posted by: MattYoung on January 29, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Rush Limbaugh became the official leader of the SRP-Southern Regional Party yesterday. So now they have a drug addicted egomaniacal ratings-obsessed entertainer in the drivers seat and it will take them years to realize no one else is in the car with them. Maybe President Obama should drop the facade of Congressional GOP leadership and start calling in to the blow hard's show when he needs to communicate with the other party. Pull the curtain down from in front of The Great and Powerful OZ.

Posted by: John Cox on January 29, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

"If Obama had gone to the Republicans and said: I propose a bill entirely made up of things Democrats really want and you really hate, but please, do join us in supporting it!, that wouldn't work at all."

Remember 2001-2006? Swap "Obama" for "Bush", "Republicans" for "Democrats" and vice versa ...

... and "that wouldn't work at all" for "the Democrats would cooperate."

Why is it vital to make concessions to the Republicans? It's a given that they won't cooperate anyway, and What They Want continues to be What Screwed It All Up In The First Place.

Posted by: Those Zany Democrats! on January 29, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

don't pee in my ear, and tell me it's raining

We couldn't anyway -- the Republicans won't move over.

Posted by: Gregory on January 29, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

I appreciate you, Hilzoy. Have you thought about running for office yourself?

Posted by: Spanky on January 29, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

For the people flipping out about this being a total loss that can't possibly be responded to, you might want to go up a few posts and take a look at Steve's "Votes Have Consequences."

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 29, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

"the numbers and this brings the cost of 'creating' each job to a staggering $460,000"

Um, you do realize that such number crunching is completely bogus, right?

Posted by: PaulB on January 29, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

"What is totally absent from hilzoy's posting (and, apparently, from hilzoy's thinking) is that the whole thing might be bad policy."

That's because the arguments raised thus far that it is bad policy are, for the most part, either non-existent or bogus.

"It's over a trillion dollars, for heaven's sake!"

Q.E.D. Like I said -- bogus. The specific amount is irrelevant if it will, in fact, work. If it won't work, the arguments against it working won't have anything to do with the amount.

"That's a lot of money! If even a quarter of it is wrongly placed, or misplaced, or unneeded then that is one enormous policy failure."

Oh, garbage. We've absorbed ten times that amount in the enormous policy failure that is the Iraq war and somehow the country still survives.

"But that matters not one whit, does it? It's all politics, all republican hating, all the time. Nothing else matters."

Moron, it's all about pointing out that the "hating" and the "politics" are all on the Republican side. They have no coherent argument against this plan and their own plan demonstrably and provably sucks. They are obstructionist solely for the sake of being obstructionist. Personally, I think a little criticism is appropriate. YMMV.

Posted by: PaulB on January 29, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy is absolutely right, and a lot of the commenters here have a very bad case of BDS (Battered Democrat Syndrome). It's like you're all still stuck in 2003. Yes, the GOP is still spinning dishonestly to cover up their abominable record. Yes, the press is still getting played worse than a tourist in Times Square. But can we drop the discredited notion that the American people are too stupid to figure out what's going on? They figured out in '06 that Bush was destroying the country. They figured out in '08 that McCain didn't have a clue about how to fix the economy. They figured out Sarah Palin didn't have a clue ... period.

One of the key insights of the Obama campaign was that you don't win an election by winning the news cycle, responding to Drudge, or kowtowing to Beltway CW. Voters may not remember in '10 or '12 that Obama took a meeting with Congressional GOPers. But what they will remember was that Obama was focused on fixing problems, while the GOP was focused on playing politics.

Think about what's going on right now: The country is in the worst economic downturn since the Depression. The public overwhelmingly supports action on the problem. And the GOP would rather talk about contraceptive funding and supply-side tax cuts for the wealthy than offer constructive solutions. Substantively, this makes me furious, because I believe our system works best when both parties act like grownups. But politically, I'm supposed to worry about what this means for the DEMOCRATS?

As someone else said upthread, the GOP is digging its own electoral grave. If the last eight years taught us they're not good at governing, the last two should have told us they're no longer very good at politics, either.

Posted by: Zorro for the Common Good on January 29, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

By all means lets be more accommodating to the right, because--you know, that's worked so well the last 17 years.
Please stop being Charlie Brown Democrats, Lucy will never ever let you kick that ball.

Posted by: Stagger Lee on January 29, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

This was as Hilzoy points out a brilliant bit of politicking by Obama. To me it seems blindlingly obvious as it does to Hilzoy although the "between the lines message" seems to escape both the most extreme on right and left. Basically he's maneuvering them into looking like mindless obstructionists after several days of huge job losses that are stunning the country which is frightened and wants action. Personally I think this bill is going to pass relatively easily in the senate with the addition of the AMT clause and then will go back to the house and a few Republicans will sign on particularly ones from places like OH, IN, IA and IL. The fruitcakes from the south will remain recalcitrant.

Posted by: john on January 29, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I think that Obama is playing a subtle PR game on the Republican Congressional leaders and their followers and on the American public at the same time. He is attempting to differentiate himself positively from the Bush technique of writing a totally partisan bill, even larding it up with poison pills that the Democrats are forced to vote against and then cramming it through Congress in brute force (Rovian) style. The game includes caving on some issues but holding relatively firm on the core of what he needs. It helps him achieve this because so many liberals are clearly upset by his surrenders. The result is that he is getting the most publicly popular things he needs while the Republicans in Congress are painting themselves into a corner and looking ridiculous doing it. That it is a long-term game.

Obama has the polls in his favor and he has just been elected as a direct rejection of George Bush. The estimated 1.8 million crowd that went to Washington for the inauguration sent a signal that the Republicans could not have missed, although the media appears to have missed it. The media has had to put Obama's inauguration crowds into the memory hole. But he also has to get health care through, and I seriously doubt that Obama has given up on his promise to do that this year. He needs to husband his power to accomplish that. The Congressional Republicans are coming out of this stimulus vote looking very bad, and Limbaugh and the right wing talk jocks are coming off looking desperate. The talk show control of the Republican Congressman is also being laid bare to the public. Again, this is something the media has to bury in the memory hole.

I don't think Obama ever thought the Republicans in Congress were going to be reasonable. They can't. While they are from red states and congressional districts and seem to have life time sinecures, that is only as long as they toe the line with their constituencies in the Republican Party. If any of them actually start cooperating with Obama, they will face the wrath of Limbaugh now and a primary challenge next year. As for the next general election, Obama's Internet-based organizations (which have become part of the DNC)are going to be putting pressure on them from their home districts and states. If the Republicans survive a primary challenge, they will face much stronger Democratic opposition in the next general election.

I'm pretty sure that team Obama has taken lessons from what happened to Bill Clinton in 1994. Obama really doesn't want to lose his Democratic Party majorities in Congress. They are going to need them when the depression gets as much worse as it seems clear that it will.

Through all this, of course, we can expect the media to continue to attack the Obama administration because that's what they are trained and organized to do. Obama is going to also have to avoid them while letting them look so partisan that they cease to be as effective as they were against Gore and Kerry. The media conservative bias will be an even longer term problem for Obama, but he got elected without them. He can deal with them.

Posted by: Rick B on January 29, 2009 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK



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