After meeting with Republican House members yesterday, President Obama said, “There are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have and I respect that.”
This was polite but gives entirely too much credit to the Republican positions.
The Republicans are making a variety of attacks on the stimulus bill — many based on false economics, whether out of ignorance or political design. The President and other Democrats should explain how this is so, otherwise the Congressional process will seem like partisan bickering.
Repair and resodding of the National Mall, accelerated Federal purchases of capital goods such as cars, computers, and ships, and spending by the National Endowment of the Arts are all reasonable stimulus spending, and not “pork” as Republicans claim. Republicans are so firmly wedded to “supply side” economics that they only see tax cuts for business and the rich as stimulus, when in fact what is needed urgently is support for demand via maintaining jobs that would otherwise be cut and creating additional jobs. This is basic Keynes. Keynes supported pure make-work jobs, but the administration is looking as much as possible for fast-spend projects that either (a) reduce the backlog of spending required after recovery or (b) increase the potential output of the economy after recovery. This is laudable but the most important thing is to support final demand to avoid lost output.
Democrats should make clear that while they will be receptive to Republican ideas, the Republican critique is just wrong and of a piece with the ideological perspectives that got us into this mess.
And while they are at it they should call Chris Mathews on his equally nonsensical statements. Yesterday on Hardball he said appeared to agree with the Republican criticism of the Obama support for tax refunds for people who have paid payroll taxes but no income taxes. Incredibly, Mathews suggested that these people didn’t work! (If they didn’t work they wouldn’t have paid payroll tax). Also, after calling one errant Republican house member last Fall on her use of “Democrat” rather than “Democratic” as the adjective form, Mathews repeatedly used this usage last night.