A Second Stimulus Or Health Care?

Paul Krugman asks why favoring a second stimulus, like opposing the Iraq War, has been written out of the public argument.  Now, I seem to remember a very robust and lengthy public argument about the war, which couldn't have persisted without opponents.  But leaving that aside, what about the stimulus?

Well, it is starting to get some traction.  But it probably won't get much, and here's why:  Democrats aren't interested.  They aren't interested because they are already facing political pressure over the debt.  Doing another stimulus will--or so they think--make it much harder for them to do health care and climate change.  Their initial thesis that a big, bold spending program would "prime the pump" for more big, bold spending programs has fallen flat.  The stimulus is working too slowly, probably because little money has yet been dispensed, which has made further spending programs less, not more, popular.

A question for Paul Krugman and other stimulus proponents:  would you rather have a second stimulus, or health care?  I know that in an ideal universe you wouldn't have to choose, but assume that the worrywarts are right, and you do.  Which should Obama get done?

That's a genuine question, and one that I think congressional democrats and Democratic wonks should probably be more conflicted about than they apparently are.  Not to concern troll, but it's a genuinely tricky, and interesting, political question.  If you think a second stimulus will work, and is needed, then you're risking the 2010 midterms and the 2012 election if you don't do it.   On the other hand, what's the point of electing Democrats if they can't get a single major program passed?

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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