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Thursday, February 5, 2009

$1 Trillion At the Barrel of a Financial Gun

President Obama took his message on the stimulus directly to the people in an op ed in the Washington Post today.

By now, it's clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression. Millions of jobs that Americans relied on just a year ago are gone; millions more of the nest eggs families worked so hard to build have vanished. People everywhere are worried about what tomorrow will bring.


Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That's why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.

The message is much the same as it has been since the beginning. The situation is dire and getting worse and we need to do something right now. We can't wait any longer and so pass my stimulus immediately.

President Obama is about to be in for a rude awakening. Neither the American people nor the Congress responds well to threats or to melodrama. Everyone understands that the economy is in dire straits. Everyone also understands that we need not waste any time in putting together a bill that will stimulate the economy. That said, he is deluding himself if he thinks anyone believes that passing this monstrocity that is the current stimulus quickly is better than working through the legislative process and passing a good stimulus, even if that means waiting weeks or even months to pass it.

The public fell for this once before. President Bush held a financial barrel over the public and forced the public to swallow the $700 billion bailout. That bill passes with little debate and oversight. Everyone was told we need it now or we face an economic apocalypse. Now months later, no one is sure what if anything that bailout did, and we are still in economic dire straits.

The public will not be fooled again (as the Who once sang). What is conspicously missing from any defense of his stimulus is an actual defense of the stimulus. Here is his defense of the stimulus.

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it's a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

President Obama got away with vague allusions to high concepts in the election. He will not get away with it now. President Obama can't defend the stimulus because it is indefensible. He proclaims it will do everything we want and more, but fails to tell anyone how. That is no longer acceptable. President Obama can NOT defend this stimulus simply by telling us pass it or else. He cannot defend the stimulus simply by telling us all our dreams will come true without telling us how. The campaign is over. There is a real legitimate piece of legislation on the table and the public has been turned off to it.

If he wants to pass the stimulus, he must sell its specifics. He must tell us how it will be transparent. He must tell us how it will create jobs. He must tell us how it will improve infrastructure, make us energy independent, and how it will stimulate the economy. The reality is that he can't do any of this, because the stimulus doesn't actually do any of this. No longer will the public allow themselves to be at the end of the financial barrel. The public will not be scared into accepting a bill they do not like. If President Obama wants the stimulus to pass he must begin to sell the stimulus, the specifics of the stimulus. The public will no longer accept a doomsday scenario as reason enough to pass a bill they cannot stand.

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