Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stimulating circumstances

My understanding is we now have a three-pronged stimulation bill being developed in the context of a three-pronged recovery strategy. If covering the bases is the basis of post-partisan governing, then Obama is hitting his mark. Doing the math, there are at least nine combinations where the bill and strategy combined will help reboot America's economy.

While this feels like post-ideological governing, it's not turning out that way so far. House politicians were stuck between the schizophrenic mood of the nation, which is an impossible-yet-probable combination of "fix it!" and "stop spending!" Not surprisingly, House representatives weren't exactly able to thread the needle. Instead, partisanship reigned. And I don't mean just Republican partisanship, either.

The House Dems made the mistake in pre-negotiating the tax cuts as 1/3 of the bill. As a result, adding tax cuts to the bill wasn't a war that they allowed the House 'Pubs to win. Instead, they left the Pubs with nothing to showcase to their conservative districts.

The Dems also made the mistake by introducing strategic programs in a so-called emergency stimulus bill. Sure, the bill is officially called the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but it's politically branded as a bill to dig us out of a deepening recession. As a result, the Republicans had some political weaponry to argue that the Dems were shoehorning ideological programs in an emergency spending bill.

Oddly, the House Dems are acting as if they won't have a full-on majority throughout Washington for at least 4 more years. The Dems would have done their new President much better by keeping this particular bill tactical, focusing on the immediate task at hand, and developing other bills for the more strategic bits. Even if you believe that the Pubs would not support any bill in any form, they would at least appear more ridiculous politically for not backing up a cleaner stimulus bill.

We'll just have to see if the cooler heads in the Senate have the wherewithal to invest in the Obama brand.