Bold, Swift Action: Is the Stimulus Bill Enough?
In the WaPo today, President Barack Obama writes:
What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives -- action that's swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.
Is the economic stimulus plan looking bold and wise enough (on the swift part, Obama is trying)? Obama's opening proposal was too timid and not near enough to stem the tide of this economic calamity imo. But it is better than nothing I suppose. Of course, Fred Hiatt and the WaPo Editorial Board and the typical Beltway "bipartisan" BSers not only feel no sense of urgency -- they simply have no grasp of the magnitude of the problem:
Even potentially meritorious items, such as $2.1 billion for Head Start, or billions more to computerize medical records, do not belong in legislation whose reason for being is to give U.S. economic growth a "jolt," as Mr. Obama himself has put it. All other policy priorities should pass through the normal budget process, which involves hearings, debate and -- crucially -- competition with other programs.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is one of the moderate Republicans whose support the president must win if he is to garner the 60 Senate votes needed to pass a stimulus package. She and Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska are working on a plan that would carry a lower nominal price tag than the current bill -- perhaps $200 billion lower -- but which would focus on aid to states, "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects, food stamp increases and other items calculated to boost business and consumer spending quickly. On the revenue side, she would keep Mr. Obama's priorities, including a $500-per-worker tax rebate.
Rome is burning and the Neros of the Beltway insist on fiddling to no effect. Today's jobs report is expected to show another half million jobs lost in January. But the Beltway wants "hearings." Disgraceful.
I wish that Obama had evoked the FDR Oglethorpe speech I keep referencing:
It is toward that objective that we must move if we are to profit by our recent experiences. Probably few will disagree that the goal is desirable. Yet many, of faint heart, fearful of change, sitting tightly on the roof-tops in the flood, will sternly resist striking out for it, lest they fail to attain it. Even among those who are ready to attempt the journey there will be violent differences of opinion as to how it should be made. So complex, so widely distributed over our whole society are the problems which confront us that men and women of common aim do not agree upon the method of attacking them. Such disagreement leads to doing nothing, to drifting. Agreement may come too late.
Let us not confuse objectives with methods. Too many so-called leaders of the Nation fail to see the forest because of the trees. Too many of them fail to recognize the vital necessity of planning for definite objectives. True leadership calls for the setting forth of the objectives and the rallying of public opinion in support of these objectives.
Do not confuse objectives with methods. When the Nation becomes substantially united in favor of planning the broad objectives of civilization, then true leadership must unite thought behind definite methods.
The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.
We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!
FDR could have been talking about the Fred Hiatts, Ben Nelsons, Susan Collinses and other such "bipartisan" BSers - clueless, fearful and unwilling to provide bold leadership. Let us hope that Obama is willing, as FDR was, to sweep aside such living obstacles to the bold and swift action we need. Our nation depends upon it.
Speaking for me only
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