Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2003 / 7 Shevat, 5763

Michael Long

Mike Long
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

What They Believe For The Moment

The economic stimulus battle is politics, not policy. | Item for item, the President's economic stimulus package does good things that neither Democrats nor Republicans can wisely argue against: it puts more cash in the pockets of people who spend money, and who can help create jobs. There's more: It encourages investment by eliminating the second taxing of income in the form of dividends. It will also end the marriage penalty, increase the child tax credit, and allow ten million Americans to lower their tax obligation by shifting down into the 10 percent bracket.

Similarly, when considered as a list of benefits, the Democrats' package is a nest of goodies that are pretty appealing to the public: people who work or who are looking for work get more money in their pocket to pay the bills, and nearly everybody who can walk and chew gum gets a tax "rebate" check for up to $300, even if they don't pay any taxes at all. Businesses get a tax break on new investments, and the states pick up a few billion to offset a little of the backbreaking financial mandates put on them by Washington.

Almost all of those ideas are fairly good, just about any way you look at them. But the long knives are out anyway, as they always are in Washington. This is a place - rather, a business - where politicians say what they surely don't believe, that their particular stimulus package and nothing else is the key to instantly raising the economy out of its neo-chronic doldrums into blue skies and cool breezes.

Not only that, they also portray their opponents' plan as a path to some new ring of economic hell, even if they themselves had proposed big chunks of such a plan before.

"This is about the job market, rather than the stock market," sniffed Democratic Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, assessing his party's plan. Of course he conveniently ignores the part of his proposal that provides a significant tax break to business, his party's all-purpose bogeyman.

"[T]he Democrats' plan is like trying to toast a marshmallow with a flashlight," said Republican Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. Yet Rep. Blunt seems to have forgotten that he was making such campfire snacks himself not long ago, when his party passed out similar checks to taxpayers early last year.

There are significant differences in the philosophies behind the plans: the President's plan is designed to boost the fundamental structures of the economy in the long-term (a recent Democratic plea, especially as a reason to roll back tax cuts), while the Democrats are focused on putting a little money in people's pockets right now (which was last year's Republican drumbeat), and shoring up government-supported infrastructure at the state level instead of the overall economy (which is a sort of laissez-faire surprise from liberals that conservatives could get behind if they had to).

So for each side to declare the other's program something between folly and treason - which is what's happening right now -- is a bit much, and all too usual.

The fact is you could very nearly swap these plans between the parties and everybody could make a neat and politically consistent case in support of their new positions.

Which serves as just another reminder of what we all know but ought to be reminded of once in a while: many if not most politicians are more interested in maintaining power than in doing the right, smart thing. It's not an academic exercise up here where bearded men sit pulling their chins trying to parse economic statistics into a coherent forecast.

It's cliques lining up behind what their friends are doing.

And never mind if, as is the case this year, each side was proposing pretty much the same little snippets in other arrangements not too long ago.

One could reasonably assume that the idea is not to grow the economy, but to denigrate the other side as quickly and sternly as possible.

Here's a modest proposal: jam both plans together and pass it all, the tax cuts, the checks for everybody, the state funding, the business incentives, the relief for investors, everything.

Then we could consolidate the current little arguments into a single grump over deficit spending, another topic where the parties' stance depends less on fact than on whose ox is being gored.

Of course there are some serious policy-based reasons for these inconsistencies, and at least a few of them are actually true. But it is so much easier to fire back than to think, and politics is, 99 percent of the time, about taking that path of least resistance.

Like this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Michael Long is a a director of the White House Writers Group. Comment by clicking here.


12/06/02: Federal Spending: Look At It This Way And weep
11/15/02: On the radio: What really happens behind the scenes at talk shows
11/08/02: Coming Soon: 1972
10/31/02: The Election Goes Republican: Election 2002 finds Democrats alienating nearly everyone
10/22/02: What if we never catch the terrorist-sniper?
10/04/02: A Few Thoughts On The News
09/27/02: Goodbye To All That: The terrible, wide war that must be fought
09/20/02: The Florida Lesson: We need better voters, not better machines
09/13/02: A few thoughts on the news
09/06/02: Give Them What They Want
08/13/02: The Dangerous Lull on Iraq ... And how today's delay proves why 9/11 had to happen
07/26/02: Where's Honest Debate on Judge Owen?: NOW members should demand better of President Kim Gandy
07/19/02: A Secret No One Can Keep: Why Osama bin Laden is still alive
07/09/02: Don't forget why Bush was elected
06/28/02: The bravest pop culture icon in the war on terror
06/14/02: Five Thoughts On Father's Day: Personal Stuff
06/06/02: Stay Awake, Grads, I'm Almost Done Talking: Life, and How to Live It
05/31/02: See This Movie: "The Sum of All Fears" is a wake-up call
05/24/02: Richard Simmons for President? What really motivates the fat-taxers
05/13/02: The Carnival at the FAIR: "Unbiased" acquires a new definition
04/22/02: Bottled And Sold: Economic Confidence Under a Screw-top
04/12/02: McGovern's Respectful Dissent
04/02/02: The Right to Do Wrong: The Creator, A Clockwork Orange, and war
03/26/02: The Big Story No One Talks About: Why isn't Washington serious about airport security?
03/18/02: Worlds Away: A snapshot of anti-Semitism in the Moslem world
03/08/02: The safest place in the world --- for now
03/05/02: Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others
02/22/02: And Then What?: Fear and Loathing Around the Corner
02/15/02: Al Gore and the real root cause of terrorism
02/08/02: A few thoughts on the news
02/01/02: Ready, Aim, Cloud The Issue: An irresponsible report on "terrorism" from the Brady Center
01/28/02: Discretion and Art, Part 2
01/16/02: Discretion and Art
01/08/02: Desperate Dems
12/18/01: Politics and Holidays
12/07/01: A war bigger than we know: Changing the future, slowly and surely
11/28/01: A Mid-Winter Night's Dream: A play in one fun act
11/20/01: A Lot of War Left To Fight
11/13/01: Guess who Clinton's apologizing for now: I'll bet you guessed right
11/02/01: Rules for Wartime: Rule Number One: Remember what's true
10/26/01: The Moral Case For Torture: Dirty hands don't always mean dirty souls
10/19/01: Questions for the Anti-War Crowd, Part II: What if someone took them seriously?
10/16/01: Questions for the anti-war crowd: If they question you, ask these back
10/12/01: The Jason Problem: Sometimes they only look dead
10/08/01: A little hindsight: A letter for readers in the future
09/28/01: Calling Bono: A plea to the pop culture elite to speak out
09/20/01: Encouragement from the Heartland, by mail
09/13/01: Bleeding time
09/07/01: The trailer-park taste of the public radio catalog
09/04/01: BRAVE NEW FREUD: Internet-based psychiatry may mean relief for those who have shunned treatment
08/17/01: First Amendment: Chickens home to roost
07/27/01: Dispatch From The Front: The Gun Control War
07/20/01: Summer song
07/03/01: It's a Wonderful Recount

© 2001, Michael Long