Voters can be forgiven for not placing a great deal of faith in Congressional Democrats if all they can come up with for a lame duck session is an “emergency” economic plan that looks like this:
After consulting with Barack Obama, Democratic leaders are likely to call Congress back to work after the election in hopes of passing legislation that would include extended jobless benefits, money for food stamps and possibly a tax rebate, officials said Saturday. The bill’s total cost could reach $150 billion, these officials said.
There’s nothing wrong with extending unemployment insurance, which has a countercyclical effect, and as a general matter, I think that food stamps for the working poor are a good idea. But all of this does little to really solve any long-term economic problems. Ditto with tax rebates: if we are going to try to fix structural problems, goosing consumption doesn’t figure to fit the bill.
The Democrats’ previous stimulus package also offered several billions to help states pay for Medicaid, which is certainly useful. But none of this really reflects anything but a quick patchwork, which ironically might derail more fundamental reforms if an Obama Administration emerges.
The House package also included money for road and bridge construction, “a relatively easy way to create jobs and pump money into the economy.” But this needs to be part of a longer-term plan for greener infrastructure. Pouring lots of concrete goes in just the opposite direction.
It also doesn’t really wash to say that minimal efforts are the only things to get through Congress: Senate Republicans filibustered even these minor provisions.
Democrats could use a re-education in Cheney’s Law: don’t negotiate against yourself. Propose something big that expresses your values and priorities. If you don’t have anything more than that, then that speaks more loudly than anything else.