NYTimes.com, January 9, 2009, “No Instruction Manual as Stimulus Bill Takes Shape”:
“WASHINGTON — The fresh evidence of the economy’s downward spiral focused even more attention on two questions: Is the stimulus package being pushed by President-elect Obama big enough? And will the component parts being assembled by Congress provide the most bang for the buck?
“With the economy facing what now seems sure to be the sharpest downturn since the 1930s, the financial system balky and the government facing towering budget deficits, economists and policy makers acknowledge that there is no playbook.”
In other words, no one really knows what to do under these unprecedented economic circumstances. They’re “winging” the economic stimulus package.
“In part because Mr. Obama wants and needs bipartisan support, the package is being shaped by political as well as economic imperatives, complicating the process by putting competing ideological approaches into the mix.”
Therefore, our upcoming “economic stimulus” package will actually be an “economic (and political) stimulus package”.
Great. Now I feel so much more reassured; so much more confident. How can we possibly miss if—before we deal with “the biggest economic downturn since the 1930’s”—we first accommodate all of Republican and Democrats political interests? Yes, there’s a formula for success. President Obama will design an economic stimulus package that appeals to both Republicans and Democrats, Blacks and Whites, Protestants and Catholics, Muslims and Jews. Everybody is will just love Obama’s plan. It will be a “plan for all seasons” devised by a “man for all seasons” (who, if he’s not very lucky or very careful, may wind up with a fate very similar to that of the 16th century’s Sir Thomas More).
The “problem” (from a political perspective) is that the U.S. economy is already in so much trouble that it is at least unlikely that anyone can or will rescue it anytime soon. If that’s true, then how many politicians really want to sign on to a “plan” that’s 1) critical; and 2) unlikely to work?
Most politicians—in our increasingly distrustful (no credit) and protectionist era—will 1) want to support Obama’s “plan” (so as not to risk being held politically accountable if the plan is not implemented and the economy collapses); but also, 2) want to distance themselves from the plan by offering alternatives and criticisms (so as not to risk being held politically accountable if the plan is implemented but fails).
Of course, if Obama’s plan actually works, every politician in the world (Republican, Democrat, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Black, White and Brown) will claim credit for the success. Such is life.
The problem is that our economic circumstances continue to degrade and we can reasonably ask if there’s a point in that degradation beyond which no plan can possibly avoid a real economic “collapse”. In other words, the clock is ticking, and it will take some time for our politicians to adequately posture, pose and posit their individual objections to the plan (and thereby preempt charges of personal accountability) before they actually vote to support the plan.
Ohh, they’ll all vote to support Obama’s plan (whatever it is). But first, the politicians will establish their personal grounds for “plausible denial” if the plan fails. The process of preempting charges against them (should the plan fail) will take time. That time may be critical and the resulting delay may cause the plan to fail that might otherwise have worked.
This likely delay does not inspire my confidence in Obama’s “plan” (whatever it is). This delay does, however, inspire my cynical snickering and conviction that a collapse may be inevitable.
And less anyone suppose that my cynicism is limited to only the mass of Republicans, Democrats, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Black, Whites, Browns (and you might as well throw in “men” and “woman” to complete my list), I want to be clear that President-elect Obama also inspires my cynical snickering.
Why? Because Obama wants a “bi-partisan” plan that’s drafted by both political parties. According to the NYTimes, President-elect Obama has declared:
“This is not an intellectual exercise, and there’s no pride of authorship. If members of Congress have good ideas, if they can identify a project for me that will create jobs in an efficient way — that does not hamper our ability to, over the long term, get control of our deficit; that is good for the economy — then I’m going to accept it.”
“Mr. Obama’s aides said he did not intend to unveil a detailed formal proposal but rather to allow Congress to fill in the outline that he has proposed.
Thus, even President Obama is distancing himself from “authorship” (and personal responsibility) for his “economic stimulus plan”. Obama will merely “outline” the plan and then dump it in Congress’s lap to figure it out and implement. If Obama had a plan he actually thought would work, why wouldn’t he try to keep it for himself, claim exclusive “authorship,” and take all the political credit when the plan succeeded?
That fact that Obama’s dumping an “outline” of a “plan” on Congress is evidence that Obama doesn’t believe his or any plan is likely to work.
I suspect that the dramatic Democratic victory last November resulted in sufficient Democratic power to impose an economic stimulus plan upon the nation—without Republican support—if that’s what Obama and the Democrats wanted to do. Of course, if the plan worked, Obama and the Democrats would garner all the credit and glory; the American people would love, honor and obey Obama and the Democrats for at least another generation (maybe two); and the Republican Party would be ruined.
However, Obama and the Democrats insist that the plan will be “bi-partisan”. To some, it may appear that President-elect Obama is a “peace-making, bi-partisan kinda guy” (a “president for all seasons”) who generously wants to share credit for his plan (and the glory if the plan succeeds) with his Republican friends. However, I believe this attempt at bi-partisanship is simply a ploy by Obama and the Democrats to guarantee that Republican politicians can share the blame if (when?) the plan fails.
If the Obama plan fails and the economy collapses, the Democrats don’t want to be left holding the bag. They want to be able to blame the Republicans (especially President Bush). Democrats don’t want to be run out of office in A.D. 2010 for having collapsed the economy. Thus, Democrats are using bi-partisanship as a device to keep the Republicans on the hook for responsibility for any failure in the plan.
It’s just politics. The Democrat’s ploy is fairly clever, but hardly brilliant. Offering bi-partisanship to the Republicans, is tantamount to the Democrats saying “Heads we win; tails you lose.” I.e., if the Republicans refuse to cooperate and the Obama plan fails, the Republicans will be blamed. If the Republicans refuse to cooperate and the plan succeeds, the Democrats alone will take credit and the Republicans will be viewed with even greater contempt by the American people and won’t regain power for at least another generation. Therefore, the Republicans must accept Obama’s “generous offer” of bipartisan participation in his economic stimulus plan.
OK—now that the Republicans are on board—there are only two possible results: either Obama’s plan succeeds or it fails. If the plan succeeds and the economy is “jump started,” Obama and the Democrats will take the lion’s share of the credit for saving America from the economic consequences of the Bush administration. The Republicans will be seen as bunch of also-rans who are responsible for creating this mess in the first place. The Democrats win and the Republicans lose.
If Obama’s plan fails and the economy collapses, the Democrats can still share the blame with George W. Bush and his Republican heirs in the Congress and Senate. Hard to say whether Republicans or Democrats will lose the most in this scenario. But the Republicans are already so despised that an economic collapse (especially if it happens fairly quickly—say, within the first six months or maybe a year of the Obama administration) can be successfully charged to Bush and the Republicans. On the other hand, if a collapse is postponed until A.D. 2010, the majority of the blame will probably fall on Obama and the Democrats.
All of these suspicions are offensive, even maddening. If valid, they suggest that both political parties are more interested in protecting themselves than in protecting the people from an economic collapse. If valid, my suspicions suggest that the fundamental issue in Washington D.C. is not “How to stop an economic collapse” but “How to avoid being blamed for an economic collapse.”
In all of these attempts to avoid personal responsibility for the upcoming “economic stimulus plan,” I see no suggestion that anyone (including Obama) really believes Obama’s economic stimulus plan (or anyone else’s) will (or even can) succeed. IF Obama and the Democrats 1) have sufficient power to impose their plan on America without Republican help; and 2) really believe their plan will work, then why offer the Republicans an opportunity for bi-partisan participation? Why not go for the throat, save the country from the economic peril, and virtually destroy the Republican Party?
Here’s the punchline—according to the NYTimes,
“The Democratic plan would direct much of the stimulus money to low-income and middle-income families. . . . [E]conomists . . . say that people with lower incomes are more likely to spend rather than save any money they receive from the government.”
Thus, our economic salvation is primarily dependent on those Americans who are the least productive and greatest fools. The hope of the U.S. economy now depends on the folks who are least educated, least able or inclined to work, and most likely to instantly spend every dime they can find. Thus, the Democrats plan to simply hand a bunch of cash to a bunch of welfare recipients, low-income and middleclass folks who (unlike the banks that have already received hundreds of billions in “stimulus” money and then rat-holed the cash) gov-co knows can be depended on to instantly spend (waste) every dollar they receive. Thus, instant economic “stimulation” is guaranteed if we simply hand the cash to people who are too dumb or too deeply in debt to save a dime. Our economic future depends on those who are addicted to instant gratification.
OMG. Can anyone read that description of the Democrat plan and doubt that the American economy is headed for a crack-up?
Sure, Obama’s plan might work. There’s always a chance. Unpredictable world events could dramatically change our economic condition. (What happens to the U.S. economy if nuclear war broke out in the Middle East?)
But odds are that Obama’s plan won’t/can’t work, the country is heading into an economic decline that may ultimately be more reminiscent of our Civil War than our Great Depression. Everyone—the Democrats, the Republicans and even President-elect Obama are already running for cover. Is there any reason why you shouldn’t do the same?
All of which tends to confirm my usual advice:
You folks better buckle up—it’s gonna be a very . . . bumpy . . . ride.