Fiscal stimulus: repent at leisure

The administration was right to press for a big fiscal stimulus, I think, and it is better to have the bill that emerged from Congress than none. (The FT called it ugly but necessary: I couldn't have put it better myself.) Still, if ever a rushed extravagant purchase was likely to induce a touch of buyer's remorse, it is this one.

Republicans have a point when they complain about the inordinate length of the bill--1,400 pages or thereabouts (the count does not seem to have settled down yet). Republicans are right to say that not a single senator or congressman voting for it can have read it. Of course, it is hypocrisy for them to say this: failing to read the law you are voting for is standard working method in Congress. But that doesn't invalidate the criticism, certainly not in the eyes of the public. Not every unread piece of legislation costs taxpayers $800 billion. It isn't too much to ask that the politicians voting for this law, even if they had to make an exception, had read it first.

It will be interesting to see what is hiding in those 1,400 pages. Some disturbing early discoveries have already been reported. For instance, the bill appears to reverse or at any rate undermine the Clinton welfare reforms. It appears to ban the hiring of skilled immigrants in much of the finance industry. It appears to cap finance-industry pay much more aggressively than the Obama administration has proposed. Even if you don't think these ideas are harmful or unworkable or both, as I do, you have to admit that they deserved more of an airing than they received--which is virtually none--before they became law.

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