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Posted by on Feb 18, 2009 in Economy, Miscellaneous, Politics | 4 comments

It’s Time To Listen To The Other Guy

In the just-ended acrimonious debate over a stimulus package, one critical point was largely ignored by all parties—and the media as well. Both sides of this debate were expressing priorities that have to be appropriately addressed if we are to emerge whole from the present financial crisis.

The Republican opposition to the stimulus measure was totally wrong in the sense that we need to spend and spend copiously to somehow reanimate an increasingly slumping economy, This is not a time to skimp, even though it adds so greatly to federal deficits in the short run and to an already bloated federal debt that will one day have to be repaid.

Opposing stimulus now on what came across strongly as ideological grounds was foolish and very nearly destructive. The fact that born-again fiscal conservatives in Congress were the same people who so egregiously contributed to a previous surge of debt also made it appear hypocritical.

And yet…

The let’s-just-ignore-debt crowd on the left is equally foolish. Just because the government pays such low interest on its new debt today because so many investors are seeking a safe heaven doesn’t mean this debt will always be cheap to finance. Indeed, when the economy does pick up, so will government borrowing costs. And then a crushing debt burden could have truly disastrous consequences.

So how should the big stimulus versus fiscal prudence debate be resolved? First, by a show of mutual respect for both sides about the validity of the other side’s arguments. And next with a very clear and very credible plan to reign in deficit spending immediately once the economy finally starts to pick up again.

We have to put an adult in charge of the on-off switch. When the many, many Americans who will have suffered in the down times demand that the newly arrived good times be let loose to run freely, the answer has to be no—not for years to come.

Today, the fiscal conservatives have to back away. Tomorrow, well-meaning free spenders have to do the same.

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  • Its absolutely infuriating to watch both sides bickering. I can’t stand it. Yet somehow Congress’ approval rating is up 12% Are people paying attention?

  • DLS

    The rise in approval rating makes no sense other than that there is relief that at least some kind of spending got passed. To what extent there’s an additional Obama-coattail effect, who knows.

  • fat_stanley

    Another strong TMV entry. Makes following this blog very satisfying. Thanks. People (as distinct from Wall St) know SOMETHING has to be done. Actually getting something through both houses and conference committee (regardless of bruises, blemishes, wrinkles, etc) is heartening.

  • adelinesdad

    TheMainView and DLS,

    I have a theory that at least some part of the boost congress got in approval ratings was the result of people thinking Republicans were in charge the last two years. I think if you would have asked people on the street who was in charge on Congress, at least 10% would have said Republicans, whose brand was weak. So if you asked them if they approved of Congress, they would express their frustration with Bush by saying no.

    On the other hand, you have Democrats who were probably frustrated for the last two years that their Democratic congress people weren’t getting anything done, because of the threat of a Bush veto. Now that Obama is in charge, they can get much more of their agenda accomplished, which accounts for an increase in approval.

    So I think those two things combined account for the approval rating increasing. Moderates who would be put off by the partisan bickering over the stimulus bill probably didn’t approve of congress before either (since partisan bickering isn’t exactly a new phenomenon) .

    Sorry for the thread-jack. The post was very good. I agree 100%.

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