Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.I'm hopeful that President Obama is now taking the offensive, based on comments he made earlier this week:
It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.
Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.
Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.
It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.
"Now, in the past few days, I‘ve heard criticisms that this plan is somehow wanting, and these criticisms echo the very same failed economic theories that led us to this crisis in the first place—the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems. I reject those theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change."There are other indications that Obama is losing his patience with the Republicans.
In an off-the-cuff moment during his speech to House Democrats at a retreat in Virginia, the president ribbed Republicans, including former rival John McCain, who call the recovery package a "spending bill."On Monday, President Obama, in his first formal press conference as president in prime-time, will make his case directly to the American people. Let's hope that they're listening.
"So then you get the argument, 'well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.' What do you think a stimulus is? That's the whole point," Obama said to laughter.
Obama, who cultivated the image of a post-partisan leader, has been hitting campaign themes in recent days, accusing Republicans in media interviews, an op-ed in The Washington Post and public speeches of reverting to the failed policies of tax cuts. He referenced his own political capital Thursday night and Friday.
"They did not choose more of the same in November," Obama said Friday. "They sent us here to make change."
He dismissed what he called "phony arguments and petty politics" Thursday.
"You can nit and you can pick and, you know, that's the game we all play here. We know how to play that game. What I'm saying is now we can't afford to play that game. We've got to pull together," Obama said.