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The Woody Allen school of rapid response

Criticizing statements out of Mitch McConnell's office almost doesn't seem worth the trouble, but his response to Barack Obama's call for $50 billion in further stimulus bordered on satire. "Democrats are showing either that they just don't get it on this issue of the debt, or that they just don't care," McConnell said. "Right now, among other challenges, we have a debt crisis, a jobs crisis, a housing crisis, a financial crisis, and an oil spill that the American people clearly don't believe government is effectively responding to."

As Woody Allen said, "This food is terrible! And such small portions!"

Implicit in McConnell's remarks is that the American people not only want, but deserve, a more effective government response to these crises. And though you can argue with the size of the Democrats' package, they're trying to give them one: State and local aid are crucial to preserving jobs and services, while direct help to small businesses is a sensible way to jump-start hiring. Doing either thing, however, requires a short-term jump in deficits.

McConnell's statement offers a nice sense of why it's so difficult to legislate against an irresponsible minority. It would be one thing for the leader of the Senate Republicans to say that deficit reduction was more important than job creation, and then the two sides could have that debate. It would be another thing for him to bring out an alternative jobs package that makes some modicum of sense, and the two sides could argue over that. But this is just an attack on anything the Democrats are doing that doesn't poll well, even if the the two things contradict. The public doesn't like debt and they don't like high unemployment, so McConnell hits both notes in an attack against a proposal to mitigate unemployment. It's effective politics, but it's not productive in the sense of forcing a policy synthesis Republicans find acceptable or hastening a solution to the underlying problems.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 14, 2010; 9:40 AM ET
 
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Comments

I think what this is playing on is the increasingly common understanding that government "stimulus" is not an effective way to build lasting economic growth. It didn't work for Bush II, it's not working for Obama.

We all know that the president needs something to juice the job numbers heading towards November, as the temporary boost from the excessive hiring of Census takers won't last forever. Providing more make-work style growth does nothing to make us more competitive in the international labor market, which is the only long term solution. We need jobs for the bottom 25% (IQ, skill, and motivation wise), and we need to accept that the baseline for unskilled labor competition is China, not the Union monopoly driven rates.

What happens when the war ends and we have tons of soldiers coming back onto the job market? Is this why Obama keeps letting things drag on in Iraq?

Stimulus means the government is picking winners in the economy, allocating prizes to their friends that pay to get them elected and to the unmoneyed organized interest groups that show up to vote. Real changes that government can actually control, that make it cheaper and easier to create businesses here seem absent. Why not remove the payroll tax for low pay workers, which would mean about 7% more of them could be hired? You could replace it by only allowing the first 90% of mortgage interest to be deductible...we have to start walking that one back.

Posted by: staticvars | June 14, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

yes, many republican leaders are using every opportunity to play "effective politics."
capitalizing on people's anger against the economic crisis and the oil spill, to offer criticism, but no credible solutions, and worse, offering solutions that could potentially put us in a worse place than we find ourselves right now.
the republicans are using this as a political opportunity, at the expense of the safety and well-being of all of us, instead of helping the american people, they are using this for political advantage.
not even the cataclysmic oil spill and what it is doing to us, and the realities of what can actually be done to mitigate it, can wake them up for the need for cooperation and unity.
especially, regarding the gulf disaster.


Posted by: jkaren | June 14, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

"It's effective politics, but ..."

Because Democrats are not taking pains to point out this contradiction to American People.

Posted by: umesh409 | June 14, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Oh those mean ole Republicans, playing politics with Democratic priorities. The horror, the horror. I guess Ezra will be just as hard on the Democrats when they do exaclty the same thing to the Republicans when the Republicans take back the Congress. There's plenty of past history that'll show you what the Democrats are capable of. Just look at the financial crisis in 2008. Did the Democrats who were running Congress at that point sit down with President Bush and Congressional Republicans and state we're all in this together so let's work together to fix it? I think you know the answer to that. Obama and the Democrats ran on how the recession was all the Republican's and especially Bush's fault. Did the Democrats try to work with President Bush and the Republicans to help the Katrina victims get their aid and rebuilding funds as quickly as possible? Or did they blame it all on those incompetent Republicans? Say hello to your Katrina/Oil Spill Mr. Obama. It's like a big circle that all comes back around. Whining about politics isn't going to change anything.

Posted by: RobT1 | June 14, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Oh those mean ole Republicans, playing politics with Democratic priorities. The horror, the horror. I guess Ezra will be just as hard on the Democrats when they do exaclty the same thing to the Republicans when the Republicans take back the Congress. There's plenty of past history that'll show you what the Democrats are capable of. Just look at the financial crisis in 2008. Did the Democrats who were running Congress at that point sit down with President Bush and Congressional Republicans and state we're all in this together so let's work together to fix it? I think you know the answer to that. Obama and the Democrats ran on how the recession was all the Republican's and especially Bush's fault. Did the Democrats try to work with President Bush and the Republicans to help the Katrina victims get their aid and rebuilding funds as quickly as possible? Or did they blame it all on those incompetent Republicans? Say hello to your Katrina/Oil Spill Mr. Obama. It's like a big circle that all comes back around. Whining about politics isn't going to change anything.

Posted by: RobT1 | June 14, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

From 'staticvars' above "Why not remove the payroll tax for low pay workers, which would mean about 7% more of them could be hired? You could replace it by only allowing the first 90% of mortgage interest to be deductible...we have to start walking that one back."

The idea seems good at first glance: there needs to be some sort of reduction in taxes and regulation which both enables current hiring and forestalls job losses which will result from the PPACA and other recent statutes. My worry would be that it creates a whole class of people who have no skin-in-the-game -- a sort of representation without taxation, effectively reducing the representation of the taxed. Already, there is a problem with those desirous of "free" money from "the government" having the power to vote the money away from others... capitation (perhaps using something like the 4000-year old Hebrew basis, or the one envisioned in the original US Constitution) seems like the only fair solution to the secondary issue. Without solving the secondary issue, though, the unlimited-government-growth-and-need-for-taxes issue doesn't go away.

Posted by: rmgregory | June 14, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

What do you want to bet Frank Luntz wrote McConnell's speech for him this time as well? When Republican's are not embarassed to pretend that anti-Wall Street regulatory reforms as pro-Wall Street bailouts instead you know that the GOP has ceased to be a responsible, credible party.

Posted by: TedFrier | June 14, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

One wonders whether JFK, Thatcher, Putin, or any of the other great world leaders of recent vintage would have waiting 58 days to call the head of British Petroleum and discuss an appropriate response to clean up the spill and prevent future ones?

One also wonders whether these leaders would have canned the head of the key agency within a few days and hid her well out of sight of inquiring journalists?

One wonders what Helen Thomas would ask Obama about the shambles of his spill response or why he eliminated the funding for this year's OIL SPILL CONFERENCE in his budget request?

..ah the wonderment of the Obama Presidency!

Posted by: Common_Cents1 | June 14, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

@Common_Cents1:
Putin is a 'great' world leader? really?
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It's downright hilarious to hear the pro-business right wing proclaiming that Obama should be doing more. I thought the gov't was inept and we should leave this stuff to business?
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And how the very same people are bemoaning Obama's ban on all deep water drilling? Funny, that's 'doing something' but in this case they don't like it.
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If you're calling for Obama to do more, please specify what exactly should be done. Initial reports were of only 1000 barrels a day leak. After all, BP is big business and we should trust in their reporting shouldn't we? If not, we need *much* bigger gov't on each and every drilling rig so we can verify any and all pronouncements by the oil companies.
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Given 1000 barrels a day, letting BP take care of a relatively small leak was the proper response. If Obama had shut down all drilling over just that small leak, the hew and cry from the right wing would have been deafening.
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Likewise, the cries that the gov't wasn't involved are also ridiculous. The Coast Guard was on site in a matter of hours.
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We've trusted the oil companies when they said it was safe and they could handle anything that might go wrong. Unfortunately we know now that they were blatantly lying. If we had competent regulation and oversight a good portion of these lies would have been discovered before such a disaster. Might not have prevented it, but damn sure would have reduced the likelyhood of it.
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I wonder who gutted the regulations and put unqualified people into the regulatory agencies? oh yeah, the GOP.

Posted by: rpixley220 | June 14, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

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