The Stimulus Is Still Dead

Do Paul Krugman and David Brooks have points of overlap on the stimulus? They do, and Ezra Klein is right to note that the New York Times columnists are not as far away as their rhetoric suggests. But the thing is, it doesn't really matter. They're writing, not voting.

After speaking with folks from two Senate offices -- Democratic jobs bill author Sen. Max Baucus, and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- my understanding is the wall between most Republicans and most Democrats on the stimulus is impossible to surpass, but easy to sum up: higher deficits and tax offsets. The Democrats' plans would mean both, and the Republicans want neither. Republicans will only accept offsets for a full stimulus in the form of spending cuts that Democrats find too severe.

The options on the table include (1) a one month extension of unemployment insurance; (2) a deep cut to discretionary spending, and no tax increases, to fully pay for something like the Baucus bill; (3) the Baucus' bill, partly paid for by a mixture of spending cuts and tax increases. Democrats won't accept the first two, Republicans won't accept the third and nobody has 60 votes for any of them.

Klein's right that there's more consensus on the stimulus than some writers are letting on, but that consensus exists in the newspapers rather than the Senate halls, where we need it.