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Thursday, January 29, 2009

A New Era of Cooperation and Bipartisanship

It's a new age of bipartisanship. Republicans and Democrats are putting the good of the nation above politics and are working together to make the hard choices it takes to get the American economy going again. Hope oozes up from the cracks in the sidewalks in Washington DC and buildings are festooned with balloons bearing the words "unity" and "cooperation."

Yup, it's a new post-partisan day in the nation's capital -- so long as you don't count all of those Republicans who aren't putting the good of the nation above politics and aren't working together to make the hard choices it takes to get the American economy going again. And, when I say "all of those Republicans," I mean all of those Republicans.

Washington Post:

The House approved an $819 billion stimulus package on a near party-line vote yesterday, a plan breathtaking in size and scope that President Obama hopes to make the cornerstone of his efforts to resuscitate the staggering economy.

...Obama's personal salesmanship effort failed to secure a single Republican supporter for the spending plan, which passed on a 244 to 188 vote. Just a day after the president spent more than an hour behind closed doors at the Capitol seeking their support, all 177 House Republicans opposed the measure, arguing that it would spend hundreds of billions of dollars on initiatives that would do little to stimulate the economy. Eleven Democrats opposed the bill.

Not a single Republican voted for the stimulus package, demanding instead that it hinge on tax cuts. That's right. Tax cuts. Because the last eight years of economic policy that depended nearly exclusively on tax cuts has worked so well.

While complaining that the stimulus bill wouldn't do enough to stimulate the economy, they rely on tax cuts -- which analysts say wouldn't do enough to stimulate the economy. The financial research and analysis company Moody's compared stimulus proposals and discovered that tax cuts don't do much (PDF, thanks to Rachel Maddow). I've gone ahead and made a screen shot of the table in question:

table explained below

The numbers represent the stimulus return on the investment. A temporary across the board tax cut add $1.29 for every dollar spent -- a $0.29 stimulus effect. Making the Bush tax cuts permanent brings us into negative stimulus -- for every buck spent, you get $0.29 in stimulus or minus $0.71. It's a stimulus money loser. Likewise, corporate tax cuts return $0.30 for every dollar spent, a $0.70 negative stimulus.

Meanwhile, extending unemployment returns $1.64, a temporary increase in food stamps returns $1.73, aid to state governments (which the GOP calls "pork") returns $1.36, and infrastructure spending returns $1.59.

Looking at those numbers, which is going to do a better job of getting the economy on track, the Republican ideology of tax cuts to fix every problem forever or the all those liberal ideas about investing in Americans?

Are you wondering why you don't know any of this stuff? It's not that you haven't been paying attention, it's that the media hasn't been telling you. Think Progress ran the numbers, comparing Democratic appearances to Republican appearances, and found that Republican guests outnumber Democrats on cable news by a ratio of 2:1.

Liberal media my ass.

In total, from 6 AM on Monday to 4 PM on Wednesday, the networks have hosted Republican lawmakers 51 times and Democratic lawmakers only 24 times. Surprisingly, Fox News came the closest to offering balance, hosting 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats. CNN had only one Democrat compared to 7 Republicans.

So Republicans -- whose plan won't work and had no chance of passing anyway -- got plenty of air time to propagandize their efforts, but Democrats got very little time to put out the real numbers. In the past, cable news has excused this imbalance by arguing that the Republicans were in power and, therefore, more newsworthy. Now that they're effectively neutered, you wonder what the new excuse will be.

You also hope that Barack Obama has learned a valuable lesson. Bipartisanship only works when both parties are willing to do it. If the Republican party isn't willing to put their partisanship behind them, then this new era of bipartisanship is dead. On the next big issue, he should seek their input, but if they want to play politics with that one too, then he should shrug, walk away, and do it without them.

Barack Obama has plenty of ways to get around the Republican-dominated media and he should use it. They don't call it the bully pulpit for nothing. The stimulus plan is popular enough that he can get the people behind him in any case. If Republicans want to put the brakes on it to score cheap political points, make them explain to their voters -- not Wolf Blitzer -- why they think that's a good idea.