The Sausage Emerges

The stimulus package that may well end up getting passed with a handful of Republican votes may shortly be eclipsed in the public debate by the looming bank reform package due out on Monday. But it seems to me that in the context of the worst downturn since the Great Depression, it's worthy of conditional support. It isn't perfect and the debate at times seemed surreally disconnected with the global crunch, but its fundamental goal, it seems to me, is to lessen the chances of a deflationary spiral that truly should scare the shit out of people. Perhaps it's too crude; or not big enough. But the following facts seem to me the most pertinent:

a) no one knows quite what will work for sure;

b) Obama was elected in part to tackle this crisis and the election was obviously not a vote to continue the approach favored by the GOP;

c) Obama will be held responsible for the effects of the package, as he should be;

d) in the context of the current collapse in demand, the distinction between a "stimulus" package and a "spending" bill seems increasingly esoteric;

e) Obama did a great deal to try and bring Republicans on board and to allow for a to-and-fro; the GOP, for good or ill, had no interest in cooperating with the in-coming president. They too should be held accountable for this. If the bill fails to make a dent on the collapse of demand, and if it does end up hurting the US through even more debt, then the GOP will be able to make that point in the next election. But if it works, their opposition should be recalled.

f) none of this makes sense if looked at entirely alone. The looming financial reform package must be seen as part of the rescue. If Obama can find a center for serious long-term entitlement reform, then the long-term consequences of more debt in the stimulus bill will be drastically mitigated. Again, true fiscal conservatives will focus on entitlement reform as the balance to this bill - not stupid posturing over trivial issues like pork.

Politically, as the dust settles, I suspect Obama outfoxed his opponents, again. They are playing the 24 hour news cycle game. That's all they know (ditto cable news). Obama isn't. That's why he's president. Eventually, they'll figure it out.