early and often

The Stimulus: Final Thoughts

The stimulus package’s tumultuous journey finally came to an end last night when the House and Senate reached a startlingly quick agreement on a compromise bill. This is the real deal now, the bill that will be voted on as early as today and signed by Obama in the days to come. It weighs in at a whopping total of $789 billion, including $507 billion in spending programs and $282 billion in tax breaks. That’s a lot of money, and to some observers, it’s a waste. But while the bill isn’t perfect, many see its expected passage as an early victory for President Obama. And with that, we bring you the winners, the losers, and the worriers.


President Obama
• Andrew Leonard asserts “that in retrospect, this will be viewed as a pretty clear win for President Obama. In his first press conference after Election Day, he stated unequivocally that his No. 1 priority would be the passage of a significant economic stimulus plan. Now, just four weeks after his inauguration, he looks set to sign into law a bill of almost exactly the size his team originally proposed.” Whether it will actually work will depend largely on our confidence in it working. [Salon]

• Richard W. Stevenson thinks “Obama prevailed, but not in the way he had hoped. His inability to win over more than a handful of Republicans amounted to a loss of innocence, a reminder that his high-minded calls for change in the practice of governance had been ground up in a matter of weeks by entrenched forces of partisanship.” [NYT]

• Tim Fernholz contends that “it’s hard not to see this as a major victory for President Obama. The bill still reflects the priorities he set out initially, it’s still more or less on schedule, and the legislation (and Obama personally) still have broad public support.” Plus, it’ll work, “although the scale of that effect remains to be seen.” [Tapped/American Prospect]

E.J. Dionne says “the stimulus victory was indeed good news for Obama, even if the final $789 billion package is smaller than it should be and lost some of the president’s useful spending programs,” such as in “assistance to the states and on money for health coverage.” [WP]

• Steve Benen points out that while people will debate “whether the Obama White House scored a big win with this package or not, the administration, a month ago, envisioned a $775 billion plan, with $300 billion in tax cuts. The finished product looks pretty similar.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

Some Republicans
• Chuck Todd and friends say that beyond Obama, the other winners are the moderate Republican cabal of Collins-Snowe-Specter, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Joe Lieberman, White House aide Phil Schiliro, the Republican Party (which demonstrated unity after its big losses in November), and No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor. The losers: Nancy Pelosi, and governors. [First Read/MSNBC]

The Upper-Middle Class
• Thomas Edsall notes that while Obama originally claimed the stimulus would target the neediest Americans, it ended up focused on the upper-middle class, those who are “not-quite-super-rich, but certainly not on the ropes.” [HuffPo]


Pelosi, Governors
• Chuck Todd and friends also say Nancy Pelosi lost out because “some House priorities lost out in the end,” and governors lost out because they won’t “get all the money they wanted and will have to make some tough cuts before a re-election year.” [First Read/MSNBC]

• John Dickerson claims Obama traded “transparency and consideration” for urgency, and the legislative process that created the bill was “hardly unusual for Washington — which is precisely the problem: It’s not the change Obama promised.” [Slate]

• George Will claims the whole stimulus moved too quickly and without debate, and sort of compares Obama to Napolean at one point. [WP]


• Noam Scheiber laments that the bill ended up looking “much more like the substantively inferior Senate version: the cuts to state aid and school construction and COBRA subsidies more or less stand. So does the $70 billion Alternative Minimum Tax relief measure, which … isn’t stimulus under any reasonable definition of the term.” The point wasn’t “simply to pass something big without worrying about whether it stimulates the economy,” which is what happened in several instances in this package. [Plank/New Republic]

• Karl Rove writes that, though the final bill “will create a raft of new programs and be the biggest peacetime spending increase in American history,” it won’t be “focused on job creation and stimulus.” And it will “hinder the president’s other goals, such as expanding government health care.” [WSJ]

• The WSJ editorial board is worried about our debt. [WSJ]

• Jennifer Rubin insists that “just about everything” is wrong with the final bill: the money will be spent too slowly, “government spending is unlikely to go down anytime soon,” and our debt will reach historic levels. “The reality is that we will all have to live with the consequences — for years to come.” [Contentions/Commentary]

The Stimulus: Final Thoughts