Saturday, February 07, 2009

Early Saturday Roundup (excerpts with/video)

"Deal reached on stimulus plan; vote not expected before Monday": AP, video (01:39).

Media Matters: "Fundamentally flawed stimulus coverage.":

If there's one fact that should be made clear in every news report about the stimulus package working its way through Congress, it is this: Government spending is stimulative.

That's a basic principle of economics, and understanding it is essential to assessing any stimulus package. So it should be an underlying premise of the media's coverage of the stimulus debate. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. Indeed, reporters routinely suggest that spending is not stimulative.
(H/t to Karen Young)

"A Plan B For HHS" (Eleanor Clift-Newsweek):

Obama doesn't have a Plan B. Daschle was a shoo-in for the job, and there is no deep bench of runners-up vetted and ready to serve. Still, Obama may surprise us. In order to regain political momentum and convey the impression that while losing Daschle is a blow, it's not a body blow, he might want to have Daschle's successor ready to announce before the crocuses come up. One prominent Democrat has made no secret of the fact that he would love the job and that's Howard Dean. He's a doctor; his wife is a doctor; and he's not beholden to anyone as far as we know. In fact, Dean was running against the entrenched special interests in Washington back when the presidency was still just a gleam in Obama's eye.

Granted, Dean wouldn't have Daschle's finesse with the old bulls on Capitol Hill. He angered the Democrats in Congress when he ran for president in '04 on a platform that took on the party establishment for their support of the Iraq War and their timidity in opposing President Bush. He couldn't trade on personal relationships, but he's dogged, he knows the subject, and he's due some payback for pioneering the 50-state strategy that came into fruition with Obama.

Dean's nomination probably won't happen because he crossed swords with Rahm Emanuel over the allocation of resources during the lead-up to the congressional elections of '06. Dean was the Democratic Party chairman and focused on implementing his brainchild, a 50-state strategy for a party that had narrowed its electoral base to 16 states. Emanuel was leading the Democratic effort in the House to regain the majority. He wanted money targeted to districts where Democrats had a real chance to win while Dean, despite being the brunt of several shouting matches, stuck to his script of spreading money and staff around even into states Democrats wouldn't win in the short term.

The Obama team wasn't a fan of Dean's either during the '08 presidential campaign, faulting him for letting the controversy over Florida and Michigan drag on way too long. You would think that Dean would have been vindicated by now, but that's not how Washington works.

Still, Obama prides himself on how magnanimous he is, so you can't rule out that he might reward someone who like him was an early and consistent opponent of the Iraq War, who helped lead the party out of the wilderness and who many Democrats think has been badly treated. Obama certainly wouldn't have to give Dean the dual portfolio with the White House title that he had so easily conferred on Daschle. And Emanuel is a political realist. If Obama went with Dean, he wouldn't fall on his sword over it; he'd probably find other ways to get his revenge. That's how Washington works: don't get mad, get even.
(H/t to Ray Minchew.)

"Once in a lifetime" (John Cole, Balloon Juice):

Ron Brownstein—the one political reporter I take seriously (and not just because of this)—has a good piece on the current political big picture:

“No president in my lifetime has had this opportunity to fund public investments,” says Robert Reich, a University of California (Berkeley) public policy professor who advised Obama’s campaign.


From a Democratic perspective, much of that investment—for new roads, transit systems, or school construction—serves the dual function of creating short-term jobs and encouraging long-term growth. But the bill also emphatically expands programs targeted more at the far term than the near term—from aid to schools in low-income areas ($13 billion) to expanded college loans ($16 billion) and scientific research ($10 billion).

In normal times, Congress might never enlarge so many programs at once. But, as with Reagan’s tax cut, the crisis-induced demand for action may suspend the normal laws of political gravity—and allow Democrats to redirect federal priorities as boldly as Reagan did. “This is a once-in-a-25-year opportunity to [implement] a lot of our agenda,” a top House Democratic aide says. Largely for that reason, most congressional Republicans are likely to resist the plan, no matter how many more tax cuts Obama offers them.

I think this is about right.

Tim Kaine Answers Stimulus Questions, video (13:07).

Howie P.S.: Regarding Eleanor Clift's advice, exactly when do "the crocuses come up" in the Beltway?

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