Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 3, 2009

A DECISION THAT LOOKS EVEN WORSE IN RETROSPECT.... In February, when the debate over the economic stimulus package was at its height, a handful of "centrist" Senate Republicans said they'd block a vote on recovery efforts unless the majority agreed to slash over $100 billion from the bill.

The group, which didn't have any specific policy goals in mind and simply liked the idea of a small bill, specifically targeted $40 billion in proposed aid to states. Helping rescue states, Sen. Collins & Co. said, does not stimulate the economy, and as such doesn't belong in the legislation. Democratic leaders reluctantly went along -- they weren't given a choice since Republicans refused to give the bill an up-or-down vote -- and the $40 billion in state aid was eliminated.

At the time, it seemed like a very bad idea. That's because it was a very bad idea.

In the past, government hiring had managed to somewhat offset losses in the private sector, but government jobs declined by 53,000, with the biggest number of cuts on the local and state levels. Even the Postal Service, which is included in the public-sector job statistics, dropped 5,300 jobs.

"The major surprise came from the public sector, where every level of government cut back," Naroff said. "The budget crises at the state and local levels have caused an awful lot of belt-tightening."

As Atrios reminded the Senate this morning, "Thanks for compromising."

Steve Benen 11:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

So if it was such a bad idea at the time -- and plenty of political observers said so -- then why did the President sign the bill?

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on October 3, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

The President is just as much of a centrist as Maine's senators.

This is a shame, because during bad economic times (caused by Republican "ideas") it's traditional to turn to Democrats and their ideas to pull us out of it. But what we have right now is Republicans (far-far-far right & devoid of ideas but they bring plenty of crazy to the table) and Democrats (center-right to far-right).

All along I've been dubious about the economic "recovery" because I've seen so few signs that there is a recovery for real people.

I suspect things will continue to get worse and I do not think the ineffectual Dems and the crazy-ass Repubs will be able to stave off disaster.

I do wish we had decent elected officials. But I see very few signs that we do.

Posted by: zhak on October 3, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I fear you may be correct, zhak. We elected Obama to come up with long-range progressive policies and the political acumen and foresight to work with Congressional majorities to execute those policies. Instead we're getting chronic capitulation to the center-right ("I welcome all good ideas, from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.") I don't much like Broder but his current column is onto something: when the policies and politics fall between stools, you land on your butt, hard.

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on October 3, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

You guys are freakin brilliant.Yea thats the ticket don't sign the bill, don't disribute any money to stimulate the economy and basically if we don't get everything we want fuck everybody. Morons.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 3, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

And it's not over yet. California is raiding the local budgets to accommodate its shortfall, and as a result San Diego is facing a $179 million shortfall in the coming fiscal year. That's against a budget of $1.1 billion, so it amounts to 16% and will require layoffs in police and fire departments.

Posted by: Bill H on October 3, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

How exactly did "the Republicans refuse to give the bill an up or down vote"? A year ago Dems could do nothing because the Repubs were in charge and the minority was just powerless. As it turns out we now see that the majority can do nothing because the minority won't let them. What changed?
Why did we elect these guys?

Posted by: BRODY on October 3, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

gandalf, you're a little cranky this AM (after my own heart...),

but I think you'd agree we need us some more stimulus...

or how about some kind of guaranteed employment bill -- oh noes, a dirty fuckin' hippie socialist...

Posted by: neill on October 3, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Brody, you're sayin' the deck is stacked?

That there's some mystery that Dims don't have the power as a majority that the Repugnants did to overthrow the corporate-friendly policies of the Repugnants, and offer up legislation that helps us little people?

But that doesn't make sense...
... hmmm, I wonder what it means? I'm thinkin', I'm thinkin'....

Posted by: neill on October 3, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, the smell of concern trolling in the morning.

Yes, Obama is a Nazi, fascist, socialist commi to the right, and a panzy ass capitulator to the left. Gosh, if only we had real leadership. Maybe the President should declare himself grand poobah and strip the the congress of its powers and procedures. Or just apply some serious arm twisting. Because it's just that easy.

If you want to direct your anger appropriately, why not at the saboteurs masquerading as Democrats in the Senate.

Posted by: about time on October 3, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

The group, which didn't have any specific policy goals in mind and simply liked the idea of a small bill. . . .

You give them way too much credit. They just wanted to fuck with it.

Specifically as 'the least bad choice' --not able to scrap it altogether they strive to add in as much harm as possible.

Posted by: cld on October 3, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

OT: Re the Olympics, see this
http://thinkprogress.org/2009/10/02/chicago-olympics-bush/
Bush Administration’s Tourist Visa Policy May Have Cost America The 2016 Olympics

But, no, to the wingnuts and many in the MSM it's all about Obama.

Posted by: Hannah on October 3, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

I don't want to rain on the parade too much , but I work for a local government in Florida and our budget (2 mill) shortfalls are directly related to the declining tax base (foreclosures, population drop), the drop in building permits and impact fees (no new housing = crisis) and a proposition 8 style tax reform (thank you Mr. Crist)that effectively doubled the homestead exemption. I not sayin' that some State money wouldn't be nice but there are numerous other factors at play here.

Posted by: johnr on October 3, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Why do the Democrats even try to talk to the Republicans?
When will they ackowledge that the last good idea by a Republican was Ike and the national highway system? (Yes, the EPA and OSHA were under Nixon, but they weren't his initiative, he just signed the bills).
Every Repoublican idea since then has been either to start a war, or to cut taxes to the rich so that they can "trickle down" their excess money to us poor slobs on the bottom.
All I know is that I've gone bald in the last 30 years because of the constant stream of piss trickling down on my head. 'Cause that's all that's been trickling down...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on October 3, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

The RightWing wanted more FAILED tax cuts. They always want more FAILED tax cuts. They STILL want more FAILED tax cuts.

Just today, Rep. Candice Miller delivered the Republican response to the presidential weekly Saturday radio address:

Miller accused the Democrats of "redoubling their efforts to implement job-killing policies that will stretch family budgets even further and pile more debt on our children and grandchildren."
Miller pitched the Republican alternative of "fast-acting tax relief."

Tax cuts are a Supply-side incentive. We have a Demand economy.

Not to mention, it's tax cuts that "pile more debt on our children and grandchildren".

The RightWing believes the problem is not that they are hitting themselves on the head with a hammer, but that the problem is they are not hitting themselves on the head with a hammer hard enough.

Posted by: Joe Friday on October 3, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

they weren't given a choice since Republicans refused to give the bill an up-or-down vote --

Ah, yes, I remember the episode well. Despite their forcing the Republicans to conduct an actual, marathon filibuster, Collins and Co. persisted - staying up night after night reading the telephone book while all senators huddled on cots in the event the filibuster lapsed and an opportunity to vote could be seized....

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 3, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

So if it was such a bad idea at the time -- and plenty of political observers said so -- then why did the President sign the bill?

That's the problem with a "big tent" party. There are lots of people that don't necessarily see it your way inside the tent. This inevitably leads to some degree of compromise if you want to get anything done.

The alternative is to join a small, ideologically pure party that has no chance of gaining power. Maybe something like the Green Party or increasingly, the GOP.

Posted by: AK Liberal on October 3, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Despite their forcing the Republicans to conduct an actual, marathon filibuster, Collins and Co. persisted...-

Which forcing is no longer possible, cf Senate Rule 22 -- but hey, you were on a roll....

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on October 3, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

By removing the state stimilus funding, the Repubs:

1) accomplished their short-term goal of posturing about the deficit & "keeping government spending in check", and

2) weakened the stimulous, thus giving them their 2012 talking point that "government spending is the problem"

Win-win for them. The Democrats can't play a similar game, as the Republicans are trying to prevent government from helping people. They can do this through obstruction - but the Dems can't pass bills through obstruction. Conference committee changes, now...

Posted by: RepubAnon on October 3, 2009 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

If you don't use your majorities, you lose your majorities.

Posted by: SteinL on October 3, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Miller accused the Democrats of "redoubling their efforts to implement job-killing policies"
As if the past eight republican years of economic disaster demonstrates they know how to create jobs.
Loot and destroy. Now they do know how to do that.

Posted by: reduced on October 3, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Which forcing is no longer possible, cf Senate Rule 22 -- but hey, you were on a roll....

Well, the great authority Wikipedia states:

In current practice, Senate Rule 22 permits filibusters in which actual continuous floor speeches are not required, although the Senate Majority Leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he or she so chooses.

I frankly have no idea what this Rule 22 is, how it exists, what it means, how it could be worked around, or how it might be gotten rid of. All I know is that it has repeatedly asserted in multiple forums that the Democrats could - if they wanted to - force the Republicans to conduct an actual Mr. Smith Goes to Washington fillibuster - so I pretty sure they could if they really wanted to.

Generally speaking for every rule, there's an exception; for every exception, yet another exception; and so forth - until we have reached the result we already wanted and have worn down the opposition.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 3, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

"The major surprise came from the public sector, where every level of government cut back," Naroff said. "The budget crises at the state and local levels have caused an awful lot of belt-tightening."

The contrary would be an economy like Argentina, where the government sector always grows faster than the tax-paying sector that it depends on. When the private sector starts to grow again, then the government sector can start to grow again as well.

SteinL: If you don't use your majorities, you lose your majorities.

Well said, but you have to use your majorities in the public interest. The Republicans used their majorities, but their policies were sufficiently unsuccessful that they lost their majorities. The Democrats are as timid as they are because they are not convinced, in the aggregate, that what they do will work: they are afraid they'll do something wrong and lose their majority that way.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 3, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

BrklynLibrul: I fear you may be correct, zhak. We elected Obama to come up with long-range progressive policies and the political acumen and foresight to work with Congressional majorities to execute those policies.

I am afraid that we are in a period where both parties are weak and ineffectual. Not unlike the pre-Civil War decade, but hopefully less extreme. It may be the case that Obama won because McCain was seen to be a very unpromising candidate (this was so even among people who voted for him), in which case Obama has no definable "mandate". The same applies, or may, to the Congress, where Democrats attained the majority by running conservative Democrats in conservative districts.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 3, 2009 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

about time: Ah, the smell of concern trolling in the morning.

What is a "concern troll"?

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 3, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Pretended 'concerns' that are just a mask for assholism and obstruction, dripping with sanctimonious sincerity and --'concern'.

Posted by: cld on October 3, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Additionally, my impression is that a concern troll is rarely or never a regular but shows up when something gets in the news that motivates them.

Posted by: cld on October 3, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

This was a very bad idea for the country, but it was a tremendously good idea for the GOP's political prospects.

If, as some are saying, we're essentially looking at a decade of high unemployment, the Democratic party is toast and it's going to be so for a very, very long time.

Posted by: soullite on October 3, 2009 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

One day we will come to understand that the words "create jobs" and "government" should not be used in the same sentence. Not if one means by "jobs" "productive jobs", that is, one are sustainable by virtue of adding value and increasing society's collective wealth.

The role of government operating in a stimulative way should be to help all kinds of businesses and to make more money available to consumers who will spend it --- hopefully without setting off inflationary trends, or at least ones that can tamped back down when things return to "normal".

The state I live in is already bloated with payroll and benefits costs and spends considerable money on things of questionable value. It makes no sense to put more people on THEIR payrolls, and if we are going to pump more $$ into their hands I'd like it to be specified what it will be used for. Pork is alive and well here.

I'm for giving money to consumers earmarked for what we would like them to spend it on in the national interest, like autos, like housing and home improvements, like tuition, US-made durable goods for example. What's wrong with THAT idea? Give it to officials in MY state, and I will pretty much guarantee that most of it will be wasted.

Posted by: Terry Ott on October 3, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

One day we will come to understand that the words "create jobs" and "government" should not be used in the same sentence. Not if one means by "jobs" "productive jobs", that is, one are sustainable by virtue of adding value and increasing society's collective wealth.

I agree completely. We'll begin by tearing up all the roads with - say - a five mile radius of where you live?


Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 3, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

This was stupid at that time and extremely stupid now.

Let's just make sure all your neighbors know that the Repubs are behind laying off cops, sheriffs, firefighters, and teachers.

Posted by: Glen on October 3, 2009 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's odd anyone considers the loss of public sector jobs, at least at this late date, a "surprise." Tax receipts at the local level are in the toilet. Every local revenue source from sales taxes to building permit fees to real estate taxes have tanked, and local government everywhere has been laying off personnel. And it's only going to get worse at the foreclosure crisis impacts future real estate taxes, which are the primary revenue sources for park, library, forest preserve, and school districts. Does no one pay attention to this stuff?

Posted by: RAM on October 3, 2009 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Glad to see so many here expressing thoughts similar to mine.
And the Main Article might have pointed out that when Gov Schwartzenegger went with hat in hand to ask Tim Geithner for 20 billion bucks (A total less than one half on ONE PER CENT of all the funny money that Bernanke and Geithner have divied up among God knows who and Wall Street), Geithner told The Governor to go away.
Funny thing, back in Clinton's time, the USA bailed out Mexico to the tune of twenty billion. But I guess California is not as important to the Powers that Be as Mexico is.
The problem with "Shovel Ready" projects is that many of our nation's unemployed are in their forties and fifties. They have to scrap all their years of education and then try and handle a jackhammer to make a living. If they are even considered for that kind of job.

Posted by: Carol Dagg on October 3, 2009 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Terry Ott @ 5:12 PM.
"One day we will come to understand that the words 'create jobs' and 'government' should not be used in the same sentence."
Good, someone else who agrees that the military-industrial complex should be cut down to size!
Or perhaps you were thinking more along the lines of the fire departments, police departments, park officials/workers, public health and safety departments, child welfare workers, utility and insurance company regulators and, of course, those damned socialist school teachers?

"The state I live in..."
Undoubtedly a state of fantasy.

"...is already bloated with payroll and benefit costs..."
So, fire a few Republicans and see how far your tax dollars go then. Or are you perchance complaining about the simple fact that, to get good employees, you have to offer good wages and benefits?

"...and spend considerable money on things of questionable value."
What "things" and to whom is their value questionable? Other than you, that is.

"I'm for giving money to consumers earmarked for what we would like them to spend it on in the national interest, like autos, like housing and home improvements, like tuition and US made durable goods..."
If you don't have any income to start off with, sending out government checks that won't cover the entire cost of the purchase, will be less than useless. I can see it now: "This check is valid until 31/12/09 and is redeemable at any participating vendor." Then, in very, very small print on the back: "The customer is responsible for any remaining costs."
And that's just for the business owners...

Posted by: Doug on October 3, 2009 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Republican Candice Miller, who answered Obama's Saturday morning message blamed the Obama stimulus for not saving State jobs, however the amount taken out of the stimulus ( 100 billion I think)had approx 40 billion to save state jobs, as Obama had just started his presidency, in an effort to be bi-partisan he allowed this to be taken out to get a few republican votes. So much for working with the other side.

Posted by: JS on October 3, 2009 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Please take a look at both the recession graphic and the table below it on this site - http://www.annaly.com/blog/?p=547
To quote Annaly "The table below should be reviewed by those who believe we are on a journey towards socialism. The data, taken from the OECD’s 2009 Employment Outlook http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/13/2/43687710.pdf, enumerate by country how much in unemployment benefits are paid out to the jobless as a percentage of their last year of wages, and for how long. Norway is at the top-72% of the last year of wages, for five years after losing a job. The US is at the bottom-28% in year 1 and nothing after that." He later points out nowhere to go but up.
- John Daly

Posted by: John Daly on October 3, 2009 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

Doug: Right on about cutting down the military-industrial complex. Glad there are two of us on that bandwagon. Have been going off about that since 1966.

My state? Not fantasy... It's Wisconsin I am talking about, from which businesses are moving because of taxes and fees and a $1.7 billion proposed (record) budget increase. It's not a Democrat/Republican problem, it was a sucking waste-hole under Gov Tommy Thompson years ago, and we have a history of outrageous taxes for (some) things few of us appreciate. We have four lane highways where nobody goes, or ever did. We have a $25 million freeway interchange being pushed on us "to nowhere" because the superfluous shopping mall developer pulled back from plans to build there. But maybe we can find a use for it someday, so put 'er up.

We barely stopped a nursing school at UW that the University itself didn't want. We pay big time for a DNR bureaucracy that supports itself by harassing people, fining them, and generally being a nuisance to those who enjoy outdoor recreation (which I do not, no vested interest there).

We are now (finally) starting to dig into flawed state laws that encourage ripping off funds for child care: a young woman has tapped into a home-based money-making operation that netted her and her three sisters more than half a million in taxpayer dollars since 2006. And they did it with the blessing of the state. All four had been in-home child-care providers. Collectively they have 17 children. For years, the government has paid them to stay home and care for each other�s children. It's widely reported to be just a "tip of the iceberg" thing. Stay tuned.

Nothing illegal about it under the rules of Wisconsin Shares. Sisters or other relatives can stay home, swap kids and receive taxpayer dollars. The four Racine sisters took in as much as $540,000 in taxpayer dollars in less than three years, mostly to watch each other�s kids.

Rules allow parents to be employed by child-care providers and enroll their children at the same place. At some centers, children of employees make up the majority of kids in day care. In one Milwaukee location, an employer and parents are accused of teaming up to bilk the system out of more than $360,000.

Child-care subsidy recipients have been allowed when moms claimed to work ironing a man�s shirts, drying fruit and selling artwork they made during art class. The government pays for child care while parents sleep. Counties have no way to monitor whether parents are actually sleeping while their kids are in day care.

It's more than OK to use taxes to help those who are struggling, as we also do via private charity, but Wisconsin has winked at widespread abuse by refusing to audit and use common sense. That's a problem, because it casts a bad light on well-run programs where they exist.

Property taxes here? Out of this world. 38 living units in our condo building pay about $350,000 per year in city/county taxes-- for no waste removal, no sidewalk plowing, no children in schools, can't get a trash can put on our corner, but we DO get tickets if we or our visitors park on the street out front and get busted after 2 hours.

Following the Milwaukee County pension scandal? First off, if you know what the County does, since it is essentially within the city limits, let us know. What we DO know is they were rewriting their pension credit rules in secret sessions to the tune of an ADDED $600 million, lots of lump sum payouts as well as lifetime income approaching their final 2-years average wages, plus another $50 million more recently discovered, so as to make sure they were able to live in luxury in retirement with 100% of their health benefits paid for. We don't NEED a county government for Milwaukee, so that's the place to start asking questions, rather than trying to contain their lucrative wages and benefits.

Here's a little summary on the recent (2009) state tax changes around here:
In mid-February, a $1.2 billion tax hike labeled as a "state economic stimulus bill" snuck through the Wisconsin legislature. The bill was introduced and passed by the legislature within 36 hours. By �economic stimulus,� Gov. Doyle meant taxing music, movie, and book downloads; making it easier to collect sales tax on online purchases; and taxing businesses that invest and operate in multiple states.

That bill was strategically overshadowed by Gov. Doyle's timely announcement of a proposed executive budget with another $1.7 billion in tax and fee increases. Talk about a one-two punch.

Gov. Doyle's budget includes:
Raising the individual income tax to 7.75% - $312 million
Higher capital gains tax on savings and investment - $181 million
A series of tax hikes on Wisconsin businesses - over $208 million
A huge targeted tax hike on smokers - another $344 million
But if you don't fall into one of those catagories, don't worry. The budget includes other tax and fee hikes that will hit virtually every Wisconsin resident. For example:
A $272 million tax on oil companies that means higher energy prices and prices at the pump
A $1.5 million fee increase on processing poultry and beef that means higher prices for groceries
A new coverage mandate for auto insurance that means higher prices for drivers.

There were a few changes made by the legislature, with the emphasis on "few". It's hard to comment on them because Wisconsin currently has no government-sponsored state spending database.

Oh, and then those two trains we bought from Spain for $48 million, on a no bid basis, after the Spaniards picked up the tab for the Guv's recent trip over there on one of those "trade missions". Those are to replace the Amtrak trains running to Chicago (I guess), which always look perfectly fine to me and I ride them regularly.

So, I'm talking facts here, more than "philosophy". When you tell me we need to shovel more money toward the public sector where I live, please understand why it irks me a bit. As I said, give the relief to actual people rather than using it to enable a continuation of "business as usual" with the Wisconsin Roadbuilders and other "friends of government" getting rich. I'm all for stimulus -- if it gets where it will do some good, but I'm waiting....

Wisconsin obviously knows how to raise and spend money on its own, with no help from the Federal folks. And they're damned good at doing it in a way that gets rid of private sector jobs through plant closings, corporate relocations, and layoffs.

"Create jobs"? That's ludicrous. Look at the numbers. I'm an analytic by nature, not a screamer and shouter. It's all too obvious to ignore if you pay even scant attention.

I apologize for the length of this, but you and others have implied I am talking out of my ass. No, I am just paying attention and trying to be realistic about what we need and what we don't.

Posted by: Terry Ott on October 4, 2009 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

Carol,

"Gov Schwartzenegger went with hat in hand to ask Tim Geithner for 20 billion bucks (A total less than one half on ONE PER CENT of all the funny money that Bernanke and Geithner have divied up among God knows who and Wall Street), Geithner told The Governor to go away. Funny thing, back in Clinton's time, the USA bailed out Mexico to the tune of twenty billion. But I guess California is not as important to the Powers that Be as Mexico is."

Completely different deal.

The American taxpayers made quite a tidy PROFIT on the Mexican bailout.

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Posted by: Edlyn on March 12, 2010 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: evedaferE on March 1, 2011 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK
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