Stimulus Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:44 PM ET, 02/ 3/2009

President Obama repeated his appeal for support of the stimulus package this morning, as he announced his nomination of Republican Senator Judd Gregg to be commerce secretary.

"Now is the time for Washington to act with the same sense of urgency that Americans all across the country feel every single day. With the stakes this high, we cannot afford to get trapped in the same old partisan gridlock," Obama said -- more than a little bolstered by there being a Republican at his side.

Michael D. Shear and Shailagh Murray write in The Washington Post: "Obama hosted the Democratic congressional leadership for an hour-long West Wing meeting to discuss the bill's status in the Senate, where lawmakers began formal debate yesterday...

"[T]wo Democratic sources with knowledge of the meeting said the president took a blunt tone with the lawmakers, urging them to drop whatever needs to be cut from the bill to gain bipartisan support and to pass Congress soon.

"One source said Obama appeared to be frustrated by the public perception that the recovery bill was becoming laden with partisan pet projects."

Michael Grunwald writes for Time: "It's hard to take Republican leaders too seriously when they criticize recovery plans for the economy; it's sort of like those geese criticizing evacuation plans for US Air 1549. Their critiques look even goofier when you see their alternatives. They warn that President Obama's stimulus package will explode the debt — so they want to make President Bush's debt-exploding tax cuts permanent. They say Democratic spending plans are full of pork — then they propose an extra $24 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal equivalent of Oscar Meyer. Let's just say their idea bank could use a bailout...

"[T]his crisis is an ideal opportunity for Obama to start keeping his campaign promises: providing tax relief and health security for ordinary Americans, restoring our economic competitiveness, and reducing our dependence on environmentally disastrous fossil fuels that increase the power of our enemies. It's hard to imagine when he'll have a better opportunity. Nothing in the historical record suggests that when Congress has more time to deliberate-and more time to confer with the special-interest lobbyists and local-interest political advisers that dominate the decision-making of its members-it will enact fair tax policies, sustainable energy policies, wise infrastructure policies, responsible fiscal policies or any other policies tainted by long-term thinking or national-interest considerations. If Obama wants to push 21st-century change through Capitol Hill, he needs to use this emergency."

Grunwald argues that Obama "should ignore the partisan gripes about the stimulus becoming a 'Christmas tree.' Congress is about to toss almost $1 trillion into the economy, which means that any stimulus is going to be a Christmas tree, no matter where the gifts are hidden. And in November, America chose its Santa. This might be his best chance to decide who gets the goodies and who gets the lump of coal."

But the critiques are not exclusive to the GOP. It's a big bill. There's a lot to criticize.

Tom Edsall writes for Huffingtonpost.com that "there is a growing chorus of economists, policy specialists, and commentators -- men and women across the ideological spectrum -- who suggest that the legislation falls far short of Obama's own standards, that it is rooted in the past, that it lacks ingenuity, that it is not sufficiently geared toward innovation, that it contains a raft of special interest tax breaks and subsidies, that huge chunks of cash will be funneled through old bureaucratic pipelines, and that the measure will plunge the country deeper into debt with little to show for it.

"'I just don't understand,' said one key Obama transition aides who worked on the economic program, 'how a group of A-level people could produce such a B-minus, C-plus product,' referring to top economic advisers Larry Summers, Jason Furman, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner."

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