Friday, January 30, 2009

GOP Clueless on Stimulus Package

It shouldn't surprise me, but not a single Republican voted in favor of the Obama stimulus package passed by the House this week. This after President Obama made a point of meeting with the GOP House caucus and altering the stimulus to include massive tax cuts. Their solution? More tax cuts. You know, tax cuts...that thing they did back in the early 2000s that didn't have any long-term benefits at all, especially not for the middle class? The thing they always suggest as a solution for every economic ill, even though they've suddenly become aware that we have a deficit and the people who are most capable of helping pay it down somehow deserve to pay less than the rest of us?

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson draws an interesting parallel between this week's vote and the 1981 strike by PATCO, a union of federal aviation controllers who didn't quite realize that the national tide had turned against them:

The controllers union had legitimate gripes and calculated that the new president would deal rather than risk a disruption of air travel. The union knew that strikes by government workers were illegal, strictly speaking, but it also knew that other organizations of federal employees had gotten away with similar walkouts in the past.

Reagan declared the strike a "peril to national safety" and gave the more than 13,000 air traffic controllers 48 hours to return to work. A few complied. When the deadline expired, Reagan fired the 11,345 controllers who had defied him. Two months later, the union was decertified. Years passed before any of the strikers were allowed to work as controllers again.

...Under Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford or even Richard Nixon, the controllers might well have won their strike. Under Reagan, they had no chance -- not only because of his stubborn resolve but also because American voters had given him a broad mandate for change. (my emphasis)

Robinson rightly notes that there should be a lesson here for the modern-day GOP: they were just on the business end of epic beatdowns at every level of government. This happened because their ideas have gone stale--they've run out of solutions, and their ideology no longer addresses the problems we face. 

Nobody likes taxes and nobody likes deficits. But as expensive as this bill is, at least we get something out of it; namely better schools, better health care and better infrastructure. The stimulus, even if it ends up falling short, is at least a whole-hearted attempt at fixing the problem and setting the stage not just for recovery, but for long-term economic growth. How many times do these guys have to lose before they realize that they no longer have popular support? Right now it appears the "we-strayed-from-our-principles" cadre is winning out over the "we-just-got-crushed-so-we-better-moderate" wing. 

If this is what we can look forward to for the rest of the 111th, then one thing's for sure: if bipartisanship falls apart, it won't be Obama's fault.

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