Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 13, 2010

OBAMA PRESSES LAWMAKERS ON STATE AID.... There's been some grumbling on the Hill that key spending measures would be more likely to pass if President Obama was more direct in making appeals for the funds. So, late yesterday, the president wrote congressional leaders a letter.

President Obama urged reluctant lawmakers Saturday to quickly approve nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments, saying the money is needed to avoid "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters" and to support the still-fragile economic recovery.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Obama defended last year's huge economic stimulus package, saying it helped break the economy's free fall, but argued that more spending is urgent and unavoidable. "We must take these emergency measures," he wrote in an appeal aimed primarily at members of his own party.

The letter comes as rising concern about the national debt is undermining congressional support for additional spending to bolster the economy. Many economists say more spending could help bring down persistently high unemployment, but with Republicans making an issue of the record deficits run up during the recession, many Democratic lawmakers are eager to turn off the stimulus tap.

"I think there is spending fatigue," House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said recently. "It's tough in both houses to get votes."

I'm still struggling to understand this mindset. Imagine there's a raging fire, and the fire department has gotten much of it under control, but not all of it. It wouldn't exactly be persuasive if the fire fighters decided to scale back, citing hose fatigue, as critics demanded that they stop trying to throw water at the problem.

The Washington Post's report said congressional Democrats, especially in the House, "are increasingly reluctant to take politically unpopular positions."

That's not unreasonable, but here's the question for them: do incumbent lawmakers, worried about re-election, believe voters will be pleased with "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters"?

I don't mean for that to sound snarky; I mean it quite literally. If Dems pass the spending measures the president is pushing, they'll be saving thousands of jobs and prevent broader economic hardship during a fragile recovery. These lawmakers can go back to their home districts and arrange nice photo-ops in front of schools with teachers who would have been laid off, and police stations with officers who would be out of a job were it not for their "aye" vote in Congress for more spending.

In what universe do Democrats think they'll be better off politically with "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters"?

"It is essential that we continue to explore additional measures to spur job creation and build momentum toward recovery, even as we establish a path to long-term fiscal discipline," Obama wrote in his letter. "At this critical moment, we cannot afford to slide backwards just as our recovery is taking hold."

I can appreciate lawmakers' anxiety, but this should be a no-brainer.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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In what universe do Democrats think they'll be better off politically with "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters"?
Well , not to be pedantic , they live in a right wing corporate media universe . This universe has synchronised reporting and uniform opinions basking in the "News" .
Whether or not the ostracism so feared by our cringing political class is noble or dispicable , it remains a fact , this shunning , needing constant care and water .
If we demand courage in the face of doom the Gurkha's will soon be the only hero's , and soon a distant memory .

Posted by: FRP on June 13, 2010 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

Let's say there's a bill to raise benefits to the widows and orphans of military personnel killed in war. Bloggs votes for it.

Come election time, the airwaves are blanketed with "Bloggs voted to RAISE YOUR TAXES". Nothing short of Bloggs parading the widows and orphans will penetrate the voters' consciousness, and even then the Gumps will still say "He voted to RAISE MY TAXES."

Thank you, Ronald Reagan.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on June 13, 2010 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

The 'letter' was a topic on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this AM, with the predictable Right/Left calls.

Since these "Teacher/Cop/Fireman" layoffs are locally funded- state/county/municipality- what would be the result if, instead of laying off the public servants, they were put on half pay? (Not too different from collecting unemployment)

The outcome would be budgetary relief, kids taught, fires put out, and robbers nabbed. The affected employees could quit, look for a better paying job (HA!), or scream bloody murder to the press, and DEMAND that a do-nothing congress Do Something.

-Sort of like what Obama is asking for. . .

Posted by: DAY on June 13, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

I would rather see high tariffs imposed on imported goods forcing actual jobs back in to the country and increasing the tax base that way.
What are we afraid of polluting the water?

Saving someones jobs goes almost unnoticed.

Posted by: Fed Up and Tired on June 13, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

David Broader had an article today stating that Obama better make good on his promise to get this bill passed. Like he's not trying. I will be happy to loan that jackass my magic wand so he can help Obama to persuade the Blue Dogs to have mercy on those unemployed and to those soon be be unemployed. It's useless to ask the GOP. Hypocrisy notwithstanding, those jerks are soulless.

Posted by: stevio on June 13, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Transportation costs could be ameliorated for depression relief half pay stalwarts . Fireman could legally carry water balloons around , bravely cutting costs even further . Policeman , well out in front of the issues because of their "Street" smarts , would just continue to tase everybody . Letting the half pay emergency room crackerjack crews sort them would not only be merciful , it would be practical .
Why yes we can !
We can stuff that government into a bathtub !
All we need is our military , seeing as we don't listen to them anyway . Why their deep scary military talk with all that high falutin jabber of unsustainable economics is just to lull the enemy . Pogo be gone !
Yep , lift up the hood and problem solved .

Posted by: FRP on June 13, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, "spending" for endless war and indirectly via tax cuts for the wealthy are A-okay.

Spending to help the serfs? "We've go 'spending fatigue.'"

Posted by: terraformer on June 13, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Well, the worst possible outcome would be that Congress passes a wimpy package and the layoffs happen anyway.

That's where the Democrats got in trouble at the very beginning of Obama's term. They passed a stimulus bill that was large enough to rouse the ire of "small government" types like the tea-partiers, but was too small to actually bring down the unemployment rate. So now voters have the choice of complaining that Congress spends too much or complaining that Congress doesn't do enough to solve unemployment.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on June 13, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Actually given some of the news coming out of some states $50 billion may not be enough.

And of course we hear nothing about state legislatures so fixated on their balanced-budget mandates that all they see in federal largesse is a means to fill the gaps in their own budgets rather than a tool to get their state back to work.

For this to have any penetration into the public consciousness the Democrats will have to bring up the federal/state distinction and hammer the states to make use of the money in some other way than keeping the status quo. Otherwise this will continue to look like government throwing money away with no perceptible result.

Posted by: boatboy_srq on June 13, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Look, here is what happened. The Banksters came within a hairsbreadth of exploding the universe. The government (and Obama), ignoring popular sentiment of about 99-1 against, bailed them out with virtually no strings attached, and then passed a wimpy Main Street stimulus about one tenth the size of what the Banksters got. And now we've got the Banksters back to their usual, parading around patting them selves on the back for doing "God's work", jerking the stock market up and down and giving themselves obscene bonuses with taxpayer money

As a regular person, you see how this works. Your kid's debt explodes, all the benefits go to the rich, and everyone else can go to hell.

And you wonder why there is not more support for further "stimulus"?

Posted by: an old guy on June 13, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

well, honestly, as long as teachers are part of the package, the way the media has successfully portrayed teachers as sycophantic scammers of the system and users of children, I don't think this will be a winning campaign anyway. Teachers are pariahs now. Who cares about saving their jobs anymore?

Posted by: teacherlady on June 13, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

terraformer points to the paradox here. Maybe key spending measures would be more likely to pass if combined with the $1 trillion in cuts to the Pentagon's budget during the next 10 years and some long-overdue tax hikes for the richest 1% (who just happen to own 95% of the country's wealth). No?

Posted by: Goldilocks on June 13, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

In what universe do Democrats think they'll be better off politically with "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters"?
. Any universe where Republicans get to vote -- in other words, in general elections.

In what universe does running against a bunch of highly paid civil-service drones with their fancy defined-benefit pensions that you pay, and their gold-plate health plans that you purchase, and their princely -- and collectively-bargained for -- salaries that you can't touch bad politics. Besides, they all vote Democrat, and most of them are minorities, because of hiring 'preferences'.

Bad times need scapegoats. Scapegoat is, like fried chicken, a most popular and traditional American foodstuff.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 13, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

"In what universe do Democrats think they'll be better off politically with "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters"?"

In right-wing neoliberal fantasyverse, the home of Conservadem Blue-Dogs and their supporters.

"Hope"fully the support of more government stimulus signals that the "pragmatic" right-wing neoliberal Obama may recognize that his "pragmatic" right-wing economic fantasyverse is bad for more than just millions of unemployed American voters but also bad for the continued employment opportunities of Democratic politicians (see: Blue-Dog Blanche Lincoln's polls).

Posted by: News Reference on June 13, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

This is a transparent payoff to unions, and a slap in the face to responsible state and municipal governments that have done the right thing and kept a handle on their budgets.

Obama is creating a severe moral hazard problem on the part of the states and munis. Why balance your budget if the feds are going to bail you out? You'd be stupid to!

Congress should stay out of this one. If municipal governments need budget relief, they should streamline their payrolls, cut back on benefits to something approaching what comparable private sector workers can expect, and/or raise local taxes.

This is not a federal responsibility, and it's stupid for it to become one. Where does it end?

Posted by: Jason FL on June 13, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

This $50 billion will be borrowed money.
Take a hint ... the party is over.

I suggest you get used to smaller government because the American taxpayer is tapped out ... we've flipped to the wrong side of the "Laffer Curve".

Remember all those Americans who were worried that their children's lives would be worst than their's. Well it is the government's turn to experience the same thing. Being a government worker is about to be rarer.

So pick when you want to start those layoffs ... now during an economic downturn that you can blame on Bush or later when there is no political cover.

Posted by: Neo on June 13, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of tapped out , wow !
Taxes are at Truman the period lows , wow !
I suggest folks who have nothing serious to say about taxes , find another hobby !
Americans being tapped out isn't a game of blame boosch . Anybody who thinks it is a blame boosch problem , probably thinks booschie was elected because of his sterling personality . Americans are suffering from the legitimate horror's the agony of an illegitimate immature president who openly mocked the middle class are entitled to . His call to class warfare with his embracing of the haves and the have mores , apparently failed to educate the dullard republican base . A "president" selected by a supreme court that members of were appointed by his father , were not honest enough to recuse themselves . A supreme court that claimed in order to conclude who was president , the unusual step of not counting the votes was employed . A supreme court that had its own little chief remark that the decision was not useful in American law aside from its one off use .
If you want to learn from this you might be careful about voting for hypocrites , i.e. , republicans . they keep destroying our country with their endless corruption , their wild and reckless borrow and spend bottomless credit naiveté , plus the very creepy need republicans seem to have in imposing their hypocrisy in to American bedrooms .
I suggest you become familiar with a more legitimate government , one not fouled by republican corruption and its attempts to trickle down defective mental processes that strive to seed misbegotten dead ender philosophy as fact . Whether that government is larger or smaller is hardly the point , it has to be big enough to defend Americans from republican rapacity .

Posted by: FRP on June 13, 2010 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

This is more borrowed money to be added to the deficit. The threat that there will be massive layoffs of teachers, police, firefighters without it is a scare tactic with no basis in reality. Obama is running scared and the only solution he ever has to any problem is to give away other people's money. It's the only thing he knows how to do because it's the only thing he's ever done.

Posted by: gina on June 13, 2010 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

Borrow and spend republicans , more borrowed money to be added to the deficit , which was cool because the republicans point was to destroy the country and make it a forever republican country . People wouldn't even remember America , because it had always been Republican .

It's the only thing republicans know how to do because it's the only thing republican's have ever done . The only solution to problems for republicans is taxing only poor peoples money . It is the only thing they know how to do because its the only thing they have ever done . Well , that and lie . A lot . About everything .

Republicans run the country into a ditch with no ideas of how to care for the spongers .

The spongers pay for everything .

Now that it is established common sense that the rich are never to pay their share , it would be criminal to have the rich pay taxes . If their forefather may have paid taxes during the American Revolution taxing the rich now would mean that rich money was mixing with poor money . If the rich may have paid taxes when dinosaurs had saddles that would mean that the pure clean rich peoples money would be made into dirty poor peoples money by paying taxes , again ! This is sinful as only poor or little people pay taxes .

Posted by: FRP on June 13, 2010 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

If a $787 BILLION stimulus somehow saved a supposed 3 million jobs, then we paid $262,000 per job and still lost jobs overall as a nation.

That's far too high a cost, especially considering we could have just GIVEN $50,000 to 15.74 million American adults.

In either case, it's ridiculously stupid and high to spend that much in one or two years. What happens after that? You can't save a structurally contracting economy by handing out $787 BILLION money for one or two years.

Democrats may be reluctant to spend $50 billion on some stupid stimulus. But honestly, whether they spend it or not, Republicans will still hate them and so will ordinary people.

Not only that, if Democrats don't spend the $50 billion, no one will blame the laying off of state firefighters, teachers, and police officers on the Democrats. First of all, everyone knows we can't keep going into debt and bailing out states that need to cut their budgets to be in line with revenues. Second of all, firefighters, teachers, and police officers won't be laid off so much as unionized state bureaucrats, janitors, and pencil-pushers as politicians want to keep their jobs in the state.

Posted by: Paul on June 15, 2010 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK



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