Thursday, August 16, 2012
[T]he top priority for Washington Republicans was denying Obama bipartisan victories, so that they could come back from political oblivion. There’s a lot of fun fly-on-the-wall stuff in the book ["The New New Deal"] about meetings where Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and other GOP leaders made this case—and on-the-record quotes from former GOP congressmen like Mike Castle, George Voinovich, and Specter complaining about it. McConnell often reminded his caucus about the 1984 election. Everyone remembers it as the 49-state Reagan landslide, Morning in America; people forget that only one Republican challenger ousted a Democratic incumbent that year. (It was McConnell, so he remembers.) His point was that there was nothing to be gained by going along with Obama. If the recovery plan worked and the economy boomed, Republicans would get re-elected even if they had voted against Obama. But if the economy was still struggling in 2010, Republicans could make a comeback if they stuck together. [emphasis added]
Journalist Michael Grunwald argues with persuasiveness that the Obama stimulus not only was similar to Republicans' stimulus proposals in 2008 (including Mitt Romney), but also that the stimulus has worked, pointing out that
Most of the money in the stimulus went to unsexy stuff designed to prevent a depression and ease the pain of the recession: aid to help states avoid drastic cuts in public services and public employees; unemployment benefits, food stamps, and other assistance for victims of the downturn; and tax cuts for 95 percent of American workers. And the money that did flow into public works went more toward fixing stuff that needed fixing—aging pipes, dilapidated train stations, my beloved Everglades—than building new stuff. In its first year, the stimulus financed 22,000 miles of road improvements, and only 230 miles of new roads. There were good reasons for that. Repairs tend to be more shovel-ready than new projects, so they pump money into the economy faster. They also pass the do-no-harm test. (New sprawl roads make all kind of problems worse.) And they are fiscally responsible. Repairing roads reduces maintenance backlogs and future deficits; building roads add to maintenance backlogs and future deficits.
Ultimately, the stimulus bill "provided a new model for government spending—with unprecedented transparency, unprecedented scrutiny, and unprecedented competition for the cash." The reason the public seems not to comprehend this state of affairs is that "the national media sucks at covering public policy."
Not to toot my own horn, but I've been saying much the same thing for quite some time.