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Test One for Obama: Urgency Wins Out Over Change

John Dickerson at Slate points out one of the unfortunate truths behind the stimulus bill: the process didn’t go as President Obama promised. All that election rhetoric about being more thoughtful and more transparent fell to the wayside as our new President chose expediency over all other considerations.

If you’re going to spend nearly $800 billion dollars, there should be some serious discussions about priorities. But there wasn’t. If you’re going to make complex compromises to get the House and the Senate to agree on final legislation, those proceedings shouldn’t be behind closed doors. But they were.

Over three weeks into the Obama administration and we’re still waiting for change to come to Washington.

Of course, Obama’s positions are not indefensible. A sense of urgency was necessary and he didn’t have a lot of time to change the secretive, backroom culture of Congress. Furthermore, one can make the argument that the debate about national priorities was held and won by Democrats over the last two elections. The stimulus bill is just the end result.

Except the stimulus bill was not the proper place for Democrats to enforce their agenda. Stimulating the economy is a “does it work or doesn’t it work” problem. Every provision in the package should have been evaluated on its stimulus merits, not on whether or not it’s a cause Democrats support. The party has plenty of time to advance its agenda through more direct means. But the party took the easiest road available and is using parts of the stimulus bill to fund a victory march for the left.

None of this is to say there aren’t many good aspects of the bill There are. But the route this bill took towards passage hardly fits with the ideals Obama promoted during the election. Sure, he has plenty of time to bring us together and is even using Lincoln’s 200th birthday to spread the message of unity once again.

But if this stimulus fails, it will fail because Obama and the Democrats chose expediency and politics-as-usual over thoughtfulness and earnest debate. They own this bill. Hopefully future legislation will pass with a more bipartisan spirit.

  • http://www.donklephant.com Justin Gardner

    I think this line sums it up, “Over three weeks into the Obama administration and we’re still waiting for change to come to Washington.”

    Yes. Three whole weeks. That represents what…1% of the total time of his presidency? I think you can give him a little leeway.

    It’s like everybody asking, “Is bipartisanship dead?” What did everybody think? That Republicans would all of sudden start believing in deficit spending? Oh…wait.

    Also, let me offer a challenge to your overarching point of secrecy. There were serious discussions about priorities, and those meetings were with the Republican who held the votes to pass this thing. So Dems had to compromise with them. If more Republicans wanted to come to the table, I’m sure that could have happened. But if you’re expecting every single provision to be argued on the merits of whether or not it’s better than another provision, that’s not realistic. Do you know how long that would take?

    Long story short, this bill passed with as much bipartisan support as it need to pass with. Obama and company made serious concessions, but they obviously weren’t going to flip the bit on the 35/65 tax cuts/spending on their bill when their non-partisan economic advisors told them that the multiplier for spending was MUCH higher than tax cuts. Republicans were literally asking them to go against the advice of the decidedly centrist economic advisors they just appointed to address this crisis. Would you do that? Of course not.

  • mike mcEachran

    If you want a kid to come out of the sandbox, you discuss it politely. If she’s playing in trafic you yank her by the arm. Not sure what you wanted Obama to do here, but it seems like perhaps a little urgency was called for. Urgent debate – we got that. Do you really expect us to believe that the 38 Republicans would have voted for anything, regardless of how long we would have let them play in traffic? Not on your life.

  • Mark-NC

    “the process didn’t go as President Obama promised”?

    Perhaps not as he hoped! Or, not as he would have wanted.

    I’d bet that Obama believed that after a clear win for the White House, and the biggest financial crisis of our lifetimes, Republicans would be serious about working on the Stimulus package.

    What he got was petulant children having a tantrum.

    My hope is that Obama has a fast learning curve. He needs to learn that Republicans will NEVER be reasonable or responsible. He needs to learn it RIGHT NOW!

  • Chris

    Bla bla bla, what a load of crap alan.

  • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

    “But if you’re expecting every single provision to be argued on the merits of whether or not it’s better than another provision, that’s not realistic.” – JG

    Exactly. C’mon Alan – what are you thinking? That our representatives will actually consider and debate the specifics of how they spend your money and mine? Ridiculous. Sure, that is what the Constitution says they are supposed to do. And I suppose there are some uninformed voters that might expect their representatives to carefully consider what and where and how the money we pay in taxes is spent. Maybe even compare one provision to another and prioritize what we really need and not waste it. Some people might even think that is their only f**king job. What a bunch of rubes.

    Our representatives don’t have time for that nonsense. In fact, I think we need to take it to the next level to save them even more time.

    In the future, the administration should not even bother saying what the money is for. They should just submit a spending bill that says – “Barack Obama wants to spend 10 trillion dollars”. Then the Congress can debate if it should only be 9.9 trillion or 10.1 trillion without worrying about details like the content. Two Republican Senators will compromise and agree the bill should be $9.99 Trillion. Justin can declare another bipartisan triumph on the part of the Obama administration. Everyone lives happily ever after. The End.

  • http://itsthe21stcenturystupid.wordpress.com/ Jim S

    Justin beat me to the part that jumps out the most to me. But there’s also other things.

    Stimulating the economy is a “does it work or doesn’t it work” problem. Every provision in the package should have been evaluated on its stimulus merits, not on whether or not it’s a cause Democrats support.

    What’s wrong with these sentences? It’s very simple. It’s based on the assumption that the Republicans who claim that they know which parts will work and which ones won’t really have a clue. They don’t. I think their proposals that we do nothing except cut taxes proves that.