Gordon Smith had the following to say about the passage of the House Democrats’ “stimulus” bill (aka “The Pelosi / Reid / Obama Trillion Dollar debt bill)
This was a big whiff for Obama. And if the Reagan and Clinton Administrations are the guide, this may be a tone-setter for the next eight years.
Commenters have demanded to know various things, such as why it was a “big whiff”. In answer I offer the following comment:
People has sort of danced around these questions, so I’m going to hit them straight on:
1: What was wrong with this bill / How is this a loss for Obama?
Obama wants to be able to claim that he’s “post-partisan”. He wants to claim to be “a uniter, not a divider.” And he does not want to be, and most certainly does not want to appear to be, subservient to the Democrats in Congress. Finally, he’d like for the economy to get better, since that’s what he hopes to be judged on in 2012. (If he’s judged on national security / foreign policy, it will be because those things blew up on him. Which is to say: he’ll be losing in 2012.)
Now, this “stimulus” bill does not meet any of those goals. The No votes were bipartisan, the Yes votes were not. He wined and dined the Republicans, and could not get a single vote. The reason why he could not get a single vote is because his “heavy hitter chief of staff” pissed off the Republicans, and failed to keep the Democrats in line.
The bill was created by the Democrats in the House with no input by the Republicans, and almost no input by Obama. It is the “wish list” of the Democrat Interest Groups / lobbyists, and of the Democrat House Committee Chairpeople (and their staffs). So much for Obama not being subservient to Congressional Democrats.
Finally, very little of the money in the bill is going to go to anything that will actually help the economy get better. And sucking $1,000,000,000,000 out of the US Economy and putting it in the hands of the politically connected is not going to help the economy recover faster. Hell, it’s not going to be neutral. this pig will almost certainly slow down the recovery. Not what President Obama wants.
2: What did the Republicans want?
More tax cuts, less pork / spoils for the politically connected. A bill that’s 40 pages long, instead of 900 (“earmarks” are where money is directed to a particular project, and the direction doesn’t come as part of the bill. This bill “has no earmarks” because all the direction is in the bill. That’s not much of an improvement). Less than $500,000,000,000 in spending, instead of more than $1,000,000,000,000. (Note: the House Republicans offered a “stimulus” bill. It was voted down in a party line vote. So the Republicans can say they offered an alternative.)
3: What’s the comparison to Reagan / Clinton?
In 1981, Reagan got a Democrat majority House of Reps to go along with his tax cuts. In 1993, Clinton “won” passage of his plans with no Republican votes. Reagan was able to get more done because of his ability to work with Democrats, and generally got the Democrats moving on his agenda. Clinton stayed in office only by working with the Republican agenda (after the 1994 elections) (think welfare reform). Democrats leaning pundits have been proclaiming that Obama will be the Democrats Reagan, imposing a (left wing) change on how we see our government. Right now, he looks like he’s going to be another Clinton, minus (we hope) the Monica Lewinskis.
4: Who cares about the Republican votes? They lost, we won!
Well, if you want “cover” when it turns out your plan failed, it helps to have had some chumps from the other side voting with you. If the economy bounces back in the next 18 months, the Democrats will crow that their stimulus is what made things better, and use that to do well in the 2010 elections.
If, as is much more likely, the economy hasn’t bounced back, the Democrats will try blaming it all on Bush, the Republicans will trash the Democrats for acting like pigs at the trough during a recession, and the voters will take the Democrats to the woodshed.
If a few Republicans had voted with the Democrats on this bill, then the Democrats could try to shift the blame to the Republicans in the second case (after all, they voted for it to). No Republican votes == no cover.