Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Don't Be Stingy on Our Stimulus

When President-Elect Obama first released his economic stimulus plan, I was underwhelmed. Corporate tax breaks? No undoing of the disastrous Bush tax cuts? Only $775 billion?

Fortunately, the response from Democratic Congressional leaders and progressive economists has been great. They've challenged Obama to agree to a better bill, and now we may have a better chance at seeing a better stimulus passed. Believe it or not, it often takes some pushback and a whole lot of standing our ground to get something good accomplished.

While I may not agree with him on everything, David Sirota made some great points today at Open Left on what progressives need to do to win a stimulus that actually works. We need to stand our ground in saying no to silly "entitlement reform" gimmicks that are only meant to finish what GW Bush started in privatizing Social Security & Medicare. Furthermore, we must also resist "tax relief" gimmicks that are only meant to continue redistributing wealth from the working class to the "American Oligarchs".

Of course, we can't just resist awful "ideas" from the radical right. We must also promote our own good ideas, as A Siegel has done. We shouldn't just settle for "infrastructure spending", but push for "green economy" infrastructure. We can create good jobs and reduce our carbon footprint by developing more renewable energy, building high-speed rail lines, supporting carbon neutral building, and much more. Building green will actually stimulate more green, if you know what I mean.

But is it really all that important to be so ideological when Obama wants to be pragmatic? This is a false dichotomy. The fact is , as Jane Hamsher points out so well, that progressive ideas for spending will be more effective in stimulating the economy than tax cut panders to the GOP. Now this doesn't mean that no tax cuts should be included in the final bill, but it's utterly ridiculous for a $775 billion bill to include $310 billion in tax cuts that only yield a return of about $1 for every dollar spent. This isn't about "ideology vs. pragmatism", but rather about pragmatically utilizing proven progressive Keynesian economics to provide real relief to the American people.

So what should we do to get a real stimulus passed? We need to continue pushing Obama to care less about whipping 80 Senate votes for the bill, and more about achieving more bang for our bucks. We need to keep pushing Congress to pass good legislation. Basically, we need to keep being loud & refuse to give up.

We've already succeeded in having Obama drop corporate tax breaks from his stimulus proposal. Let's keep up the good work! Now, we should push to include good spending in this bill.

Call your local Congresscritters. Write to the Obama Transition Office. Raise some hell until we get a stimulus that isn't stingy to us.


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