Friday, January 09, 2009

What No Rubber Stamp?

This is encouraging. We might actually see some real honest to goodness dialogue on how best get the necessary stimulus going in the economy. This is a really big piece of legislation and if it is done right is going to make the difference in all our futures. If it is done wrong we are all screwed. Passing major legislation should be a negotiation and discussion of competing ideas and not just a rubber stamp as it has been the last 8 years.

President-elect Barack Obama's economic recovery plan ran into crossfire from his own party in Congress on Thursday, suggesting that quick passage of spending programs and tax cuts could require more time and negotiation than Democrats once hoped.

Senate Democrats complained that major components of his plan were not bold enough and urged more focus on creating jobs and rebuilding the nation's energy infrastructure rather than cutting taxes.

[T]he broad support [Obama] has enjoyed so far for the basic concept is now being tested as the specifics become clearer. While conservatives criticize the high spending, and moderate Democrats express concern about the swelling deficit, liberals are pushing for even more money devoted to social programs, alternative-energy development and road, bridge and school construction.

Harkin and Conrad want to see more infrastructure investments. Kerry wants to alter the employment tax credits. Other Democratic senators expressed other competing concerns to transition team officials. This is all constructive and needed discussion. We already know experts like Krugman and Stiglitz are concerned that it is focused too heavily on tax cuts and not nearly big enough. Let's talk it out.

No one is arguing the importance of acting quickly but it's very important for Congress to engage and follow a collaborative process in which an administration and leading lawmakers engage in some back-and-forth. There is some talk on the right and in the media that this is the beginning of the typical Democratic circular firing squad but as far as I can tell this is legitimate discussion and policy debate. It's called "governing." Granted, we have not seen much, if any, of this stange process in the last 8 years but it really is how it is supposed to work.

John Cole at Balloon Juice had some good input on this: "Maybe the Republicans will pull their heads out of their collective asses and decide that in the wake of the DOW dropping 80,000 points and massive unemployment and five quarters of negative growth there is something more important than capital gains tax cuts, Elian Gonzalez, Terri Schiavo, and the fairness doctrine, and join in the debate and act for once in good faith and with the best interests of the country in mind."

Pretty radical idea but one can dream.

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