To my surprise (and dismay), the Senate has signed off on the latest stimulus bill price tagged at $819 billion. Though this amount fell a little short of the trillion dollars proposed (that’s trillion, with a “T”), the passage comes as a victory for the Obama administration. The Democratic Senate majority coupled with a few moderate Republicans was just enough to get the bill through.
Despite some bipartisan compromising, it does not appear that anybody is particularly thrilled about the bill passing. But it passed nonetheless.
Republicans, for example, are steamed. Considering that 87% of conservatives were against the stimulus package in the first place, I can imagine that they are none too thrilled about this legislation seeing the light of day. Additionally, I suspect they have a great deal of haughty contempt towards the few colleagues in their party who voted in favor of the legislation; namely Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine. If I had to make a prediction today, I would say the GOP will hang this vote over their heads; notably in the case of Sen. Specter as he is the first up for re-election. Though with Pennsylvania slowly losing its hold with its conservative base, any attempts to oust him may be minimal. Still, these three Senators clearly broke ranks with their party and may have a price to pay in the future. We shall see.
Anger and frustration regarding this bill is not unique to Republicans. Democrats too are also upset with the bill; but moreso because of what was eliminated from the original version. The previous version of the bill, supported by over 64% of registered Democrats, included additional funding for education, unemployment, construction projects, and the space program. However, the version passing through the Senate was nothing like it was originally intended. Instead, the modified version of the bill created and passed by the Senate now puts Democrats in the unfavorably position of possibly shifting away from their base. Many of the changes go directly against their ideals. Interestingly, even VP Joe Biden suggested the importance of Democrats passing this bill despite the possible ramifications they may face in the 2010 elections. His contention, perhaps part gaffe, part refreshing candor, underscores one of the most important questions that can be asked of all this stimulus nonsense: will it work? If it does not work, will political careers be destroyed because of a Yea? Will the Republican resistance against this legislation earn back some of their lost credibility on fiscal discipline, which contributed to them getting smacked around in the last two major elections? Again, we shall see.
But as it stands, contrary to how I dedicated much of this post to discussing the politicization of the bill, I truly could care less about who is politically affected by the results of this stimulus. As an aspiring political scientist, an action like this would generally steal all my interest. But what concerns me more at this point is the stimulus itself; namely its creation and the miserable economic situation which brought it about. While greedy corporate giants are getting bailed out left and right, the average person is still losing their job. As an analyst from the Economy Policy Institute grimily pointed out: with a loss of almost 600,000 jobs in January, the labor market is as bad at it has been at any point in this recession. Job loss equates to less spending. Less spending equates to failed companies (well that, and serious corporate mismanagement. Congress bailer-outers seem to forget that). Failed companies equate to ever MORE bailouts. Bailouts equate to insurmountable debt we leave for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
The expectation that the economy will pick up once people a little extra money to spend is absurd. That should have been the message taken from the first round of stimulation. But instead of learning their lesson from a failed experiment, Congress is going to try again. All that said, everybody join me in thanking our elected officials . In at least a semi-bipartisan way, they have gone to great lengths to replicate a stimulus package which miserably failed in the past, while expecting different results. Einstein called that insanity. They call it…well, I’m not so sure what they call it. All I know (or at least strongly feel) is that their efforts are likely going to make our lives and the lives of our offspring a little crappier than they are now. I feel you, HipCon. I’m a little scared too.