Paul Krugman hit the nail on the head today in diagnosing the disease in DC that's causing the stimulus bill to gradually weaken and worsen into nothingness.
What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?
A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.
Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.
Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse.
First off, the bill in its present shape is far too little to be very effective. How the hell can an $820 billion package with 40% of it consisting of near-worthless tax cuts be enough spending to fill that $2.9 trillion gap? And secondly, why were the most effective parts of the bill either trimmed down or completely eliminated? Studies have shown that direct aid, like food stamps and state & local government assistance, are the best ways to prevent an economy from failing. So why is President Obama so open to allowing a "stimulus bill" to pass that excludes what's really needed to stimulate this economy?
The problem, as Jane Hamsher pointed out this morning, is that effective provisions of the bill are being forsaken for the sake of "bipartisanship". Why? So Susan Collins and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman can feel good about themselves? So Mitch McConnell and John Boehner can really have their way despite being in the minority? So "El Rushbo" Limbaugh can be "vindicated"?
Bipartisanship should be the means to an end, not some religious cult. There's no reason why aid for the working poor should be sacrificed for "bipartisanship". There's no reason why aid for states like California, states about to literally go bankrupt, should be sacrificed for "bipartisanship". There's no reason why kids should be deprived of a college education for the sake of "bipartisanship". There's no reason why people should be deprived of needed health care for the sake of "bipartisanship". And no, there's no reason why we shouldn't start investing in better energy choices for the sake of "bipartisanship".
President Obama made a serious mistake in elevating the process over the substance, and we need to correct that. Tell the President not to sacrifice his values for the sake of placating cruel and bloodthirsty Rethuglicans. If you have GOP members of Congress, tell them to stop holding needy people hostage for the sake of "bipartisanship". And if you have Democratic members of Congress, tell them to stand firm in supporting good provisions in the stimulus that actually help all of us in need.
We need real help, not empty rhetoric. We need a bill that puts people back to work, not a bill George W. Bush would be proud of. We need to remind our elected officials in Washington that they work for us, so they need to stop bending over backwards for stupid Beltway Pundits and start doing something for us.