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Obama's Sort Of Stimulus

The president, facing a fall disaster, wants to dig his way out with road projects.

The pundits aren't buying.

It's not treating Obama like a dog to say that the commentariat is turning up its collective nose at his latest policy proposal.

The president just finished a spirited economic speech in Ohio, mentioning the struggles of his grandparents and Michelle's father. That took about a paragraph, but I bet it generates most of the cable chatter (it was already preemptively criticized on Fox).

What about the substance? The spending plan calls for $50 billion of infrastructure spending over six years, to build or maintain 150,000 miles of highways, 4,000 miles of rail lines and other transit projects. We need jobs, right? A little New Deal-ish, but at least the country gets something for its investment.

On the right, Commentary's Jennifer Rubin doesn't like it:
"On one level, it seems simply absurd. Republicans lambasted the plan. Minority Whip Eric Cantor released a statement comparing this to 'blindly throwing darts at the board.' But opposition may well be bipartisan...
"To top it off, Obama showed his peevish side one more time, claiming that his critics 'talk about me like a dog.' No, they talk about him like he is an increasingly desperate and out of touch liberal pol whose main obsession remains his own image."

On the left, Paul Krugman likes the plan but disses it anyway:
"1. It's a good idea
"2. It's much too small
"3. It won't pass anyway -- which makes you wonder why the administration didn't propose a bigger plan, so as to at least make the point that the other party is standing in the way of much needed repair to our roads, ports, sewers, and more- not to mention creating jobs. Once again, they're striking right at the capillaries."

Atlantic's Josh Green is also unimpressed:
"Mainly it seems like an enormous--again implicit--admission of error on the administration's part, and rolling it out piecemeal, on balance, a losing strategy. First, these measures come far too late. Had the White House put forward a unified package in the spring, as it considered doing, some version might have already passed (one that would necessarily include Republican plums like business tax cuts, yes, but also measures that Democrats favor). "By presenting the components individually, Republicans, whose support will be necessary to pass anything, are free to select whatever they fancy from the pu pu platter and condemn the rest as irresponsible Democratic deficit spending. Which is exactly what they're doing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the infrastructure initiative (with piercing accuracy, I'd add), 'A last-minute cobbled-together stimulus bill with more than $50 billion in new tax hikes will not reverse the complete lack of confidence Americans have in Washington Democrats' ability to help this economy.'"

In sum, the president steered a middle course and pleased no one. "More highways!" isn't even a great rallying cry.

By Howard Kurtz  |  September 8, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Top story  
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