Responsible Government (Updated)

And an article in the Wall Street Journal provides me with an opportunity to comment on the Brobdingnagian stimulus package working its way through the Congress:

According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, a mere $26 billion of the House stimulus bill’s $355 billion in new spending would actually be spent in the current fiscal year, and just $110 billion would be spent by the end of 2010. This is highly embarrassing given that Congress’s justification for passing this bill so urgently is to help the economy right now, if not sooner.

I understand that it’s politically necessary for the Obama Administration to act quickly and rush a stimulus package through. And I further understand that the Administration has come in with a host of objectives and spending priorities that are important to it. Allowing the former to become a smokescreen for the latter is irresponsible.

IMO the responsible thing to do in reaction to what the Administration has repeatedly characterized as the “greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression” (I disagree with that characterization, at least for now, but that’s a different topic) is to limit the spending in the stimulus package to items that can be spent productively before the end of the first quarter of 2010. Those are the only items that have any hope of stemming the economic downturn anyway.

If the Administration wants additional stimulus spending, substitute more items that can have immediate effect. Those include extending unemployment benefits, increasing food stamps, and temporarily reducing FICA, either at the employee or the employer side or both.

For a long time I’ve said that the path back to a Democratic majority in the Congress and back to the White House was through good governance rather than through litigation, gerrymandering, and other sleight of hand. Fortunately for the Democrats the Republicans have done them the favor of providing such a bad example of governance, giving the Congress and the White House back into their hands.

This is no time for the Democrats to prove that they can be as irresponsible as the Republicans have been.


Here’s a solid critique of the stimulus plan based on efficiency and timing. Hat tip: Matt Yglesias via Brad DeLong.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment