Monday, February 2, 2009

Of Fish and Spines

I wrote the other day that the GOP vote en masse against the stimulus bill in the House was a fishy sign that Republicans were already abandoning any pretense of an attempt at bi-partisanship. A commenter by the name of Tony Turner engaged me for a number of hours in a debate over the stimulus bill and the real meaning of the GOP response. Tony's arguments were not bad. His grasp of the economics of the bill was good I should say; at least from the Republican point of view. But then, how would I know?

I had not intended to get into the meat of the package because I really didn't know what was involved; nor do I understand economics. I admit it. I take it as a given that the GOP response is a failure – it's how I'm wired after 14 years of Republican majority rule -- and I never blog about economics. Best not to if you know nothing about it (good advice for both sides, me thinks).

So my posting effort was really about motivations. However, today I found a different slant on the plan, one that I could understand and agree with. Frank Rich, a favorite columnist of mine, had this to say about the Republican vote.

The problem is not that House Republicans gave the stimulus bill zero votes last week. That’s transitory political symbolism, and it had no effect on the outcome. Some of the naysayers will vote for the revised final bill anyway (and claim, Kerry-style, that they were against it before they were for it). The more disturbing problem is that the party has zero leaders and zero ideas. It is as AWOL in this disaster as the Bush administration was during Katrina.
Ah! It wasn't fishy that no GOPer voted for the plan; they just had nothing new to offer.

I admit I am a casual peruser of only the periphery of national events; I often go by what I feel is right. So, in our mini-debate Tony told me that tax cuts are a stimulus. Why wouldn't the Dems agree to that? I couldn't say. All I knew was that I thought I'd heard differently about tax cuts. Frank Rich to the rescue.

The Republicans do have one idea, of course, but it’s hardly fresh: more and bigger tax cuts, particularly for business and the well-off. That’s the sum of their “alternative” stimulus plan. Obama has tried to accommodate this panacea, perhaps to a fault. Mainstream economists in both parties believe that tax cuts in the stimulus package will deliver far less bang for the buck than, say, infrastructure spending. The tax-cut stimulus embraced a year ago by the G.O.P. induced next-to-no consumer spending as Americans merely banked the savings or paid down debt.
Hmmm. That's what we did – paid down credit cards and we anticipate doing the same this time if the tax cuts go through. And anyway, is Tony suggesting, like Rush Limbaugh did recently that because the Republicans won approximately 46% of the national vote in the last election, 46% of the stimulus package should be Republican ideas?

Now, of course Tony is not suggesting that. I actually have a lot of respect for his foray into my blog and for his thoughts. What he had to say (even though I could not answer whether other Republican proposals were good or bad) sounded reasonable though in hindsight, much the same as has (apparently) been written and said before. But thanks are in order nonetheless. You won the debate, Tony ( I knew I was missing out in high school not getting involved in debate). We'll win the war, I hope.

Which brings me back, one more time to the cult that is Limbaugh. I commented previously about Phil Gringrey, a right-wing dust bunny. Rich takes him on, too (and other Republicans).

Most pathetic of all was Phil Gingrey, a right-wing Republican congressman from Georgia, who mildly criticized both Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to Politico because they “stand back and throw bricks” while lawmakers labor in the trenches. So many called Gingrey’s office to complain that the poor congressman begged Limbaugh to bring him on air to publicly recant on Wednesday. As Gingrey abjectly apologized to talk radio’s commandant for his “stupid comments” and “foot-in-mouth disease,” he sounded like the inmate in a B-prison-movie cowering before the warden after a failed jailbreak.
No ideas and no spines. That's all most Republicans have these days. If that's reflexive commenting, so be it. It's also the truth.


  1. There are a lot of holes in Rich's assessment, and it is VERY fair to characterize his remarks as partisan.

    First off, Paul Ryan has ideas and IS a leader.

    Secondly, even Obama's own sub-Cabinet level OMB appointee wrote (a couple of years ago) that 'gummint spending is NOT as efficacious as tax-stimulus methods' (that's a decent summary but not a direct quote.)

    Rich poisons the well by yapping about "tax cuts for the rich." In fact, (R) proposals include cutting income tax rates IN HALF for the two LOWEST income-tax brackets.

    Finally, a tax rebate is NOT a tax cut. It's just a one-time event, good for one (maybe two) year(s).

    But actual businesses and real people think in 2- and 3- (or more) year plans...

    And, by the way, that rebate is from the SocSec tax--the very LAST tax which should be shorted, given the upcoming retirement boom!

  2. Thank you, daddio.

  3. You'll note that I contradict my remarks here with today's post, wherein Cianfrocca advocates reducing the payroll tax for 2+ years.

    I think his idea is workable, but needs some modification.

    However, it beats the daylights out of the Porkulus.