Sunday, February 15, 2009

SNL, Frank Rich On GOP Cluelessness Following Stimulus Bill Passage

Saturday Night Live mocked the Republicans' obstructionist stance on the stimulus package, their belief that they somehow "prevailed" during the past week and the influence of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on their party. The reference to President Obama providing "too much information" at a recent press conference is a clear dig at his predecessor, who was not exactly renowned for his precise and detailed articulation of policies. Veteran SNL actor Dan Ackroyd played a self-assured John Boehner, Ohio Representative and House Minority Leader.

Meanwhile, Frank Rich, in "They Sure Showed That Obama" (2/15/09), also focused on GOP political cluelessness regarding their delusive belief in a "victory." If the passage of a $787 billion economic stimulus bill in the first three weeks of the Obama presidency is a "defeat," may there be many more such "defeats." From Rich's column:

...Because Republicans are isolated in that parallel universe and believe all the noise in its echo chamber, they are now as out of touch with reality as the “inevitable” Clinton campaign was before it got clobbered in Iowa. The G.O.P. doesn’t recognize that it emerged from the stimulus battle even worse off than when it started...

...the final score was unambiguous. The stimulus package arrived with the price tag and on roughly the schedule Obama had set for it. The president’s job approval percentage now ranges from the mid 60s (Gallup, Pew) to mid 70s (CNN) — not bad for a guy who won the presidency with 52.9 percent of the vote. While 48 percent of Americans told CBS, Gallup and Pew that they approve of Congressional Democrats, only 31 (Gallup), 32 (CBS) and 34 (Pew) percent could say the same of their G.O.P. counterparts.

...But the Republicans are busy high-fiving themselves and celebrating “victory.” Even in defeat, they are still echoing the 24/7 cable mantra about the stimulus’s unpopularity. ...There hasn’t been this much delusional giddiness in these ranks since Monica Lewinsky promised a surefire Republican sweep in the 1998 midterms.


mjmand said...

I have mixed feelings about the stimulus package. On the one hand I see direct evidence of hard times with many people losing their jobs and the ancillary problems associated with lack of employment and they are certainly deserving of our help. On the other hand, there is precious little evidence that we can spend our way out of a recession. In retrospect it was not the New Deal that ended the Great Depression – by 1938 there was consideration of ending many of the projects because this form of stimulation just wasn’t working – it was December 7, 1941 that reset the wheels of the economy in motion.

But there are two points I would never argue. First of all, even if it did not end the depression, the New Deal was, by no means, a failure. We are still benefiting from Roosevelt’s programs and the infrastructure improvements that they brought. Secondly, I am not advocating starting full scale war to grease the wheels. That is simply immoral.

The good I see from this stimulus package is that President Obama got what he wanted, even if I am uncertain of its wisdom – and that, in itself, is significant and bodes very well politically for our future. But I would have preferred a slightly different plan.

I blame Ronald Reagan more than anyone else for our problems today; with his disdain for government regulations and government interference with the workings of our economy. The people who run big business in America have demonstrated over and over again that they cannot be trusted to behave responsibly with respect to the overall public interest. Left completely to their own devices it is clear that they will exploit human nature to concentrate the wealth. I still believe in the free market, but there have to be guidelines. I don’t believe that it is ethical to create the desire for goods and services and then charge as much as the market will bear to satisfy it. Our economy needs cleansing, and this recession might just be that.

My plan – and I am by no means and economist – would take this stimulus money and create a social safety net to mitigate all pain and suffering. I would extend unemployment benefits, health care and food stamps and soften the restrictions on those who could apply. I would spend only on infrastructure and education (although I do believe that there is much waste in the education is delivered in this country). I would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible. I would raise the tax on gasoline (as a social policy for behavior modification). I would repeal all Bush’s tax cuts of 2001 ($1.3 trillion), and, as republican as this sounds, I would lower all taxes on business, especially small business, offering tax credits for investment and job creation. And then I would let the economy correct itself.

I’ve heard it said that we have to get people spending again. Well, all I can say to that is that if this country is going to rely on me to buy more stuff that I don’t need with money I don’t have, then we had better be prepared for a long, long recession because it’s that type of behavior that has gotten me and many others into trouble in the first place.

Jeff Tone said...

MJM: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I don't look at the stimulus package as "spending our way out of a recession" as much as investing in the country's future. If we invest in infrastructure, for example, we are not only adding jobs but also improving the bridges and highways that we depend upon for commerce.

I quite agree that Reagan what he set in motion–borrow-and-spend policies, tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation–are chiefly responsible for the problems we face today.

I think that Obama wanted his plan to resemble the plan you proposed. He had to compromise, however, with Republicans to get it passed. That meant, unfortunately, cuts in education and infrastructure.