Bad Politics, Bad Policy

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while — things have been busy at work and I’m trying to get back in to the swing of things. A few others around the blogosphere have pointed to this, but I thought I’d mention it too. Apparently, the reason transit spending was limited in the proposed stimulus bill was to make room for tax cuts. This is from Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN):

The reason for the reduction in overall funding — we took money out of Amtrak and out of aviation; we took money out of the Corps of Engineers, reduced the water infrastructure program, the drinking water and the wastewater treatment facilities and sewer lines, reduced that from $14 billion to roughly $9 billion — was the tax cut initiative that had to be paid for in some way by keeping the entire package in the range of $850 billion.

This is bad on a multitude of levels. First, tax cuts are hardly the most effective form of stimulus, and as Ryan Avent argues, this doesn’t really account for the relative dollars split between roads and transit. But beyond these issues, this sort of “pre-bargaining” in the name of consensus fundamentally misreads the political outlook. That is, tax cuts are always popular, government spending isn’t, or at least hasn’t been. It’s more important to use political capital to get through the most effective stimulus package we can while the will is there to do it. More importantly, the Republicans were never going to let this get through without a fight; politics requires they take some form of opposition, which means they’re going to extract even more concessions. If tax cuts were going to be aprt of it, why not give them as concession?

One Response to “Bad Politics, Bad Policy”

  1. Preemptive Concessions « Yes, Let’s Talk About This Says:

    […] didn’t take a genius to predict that “preemptive concession” strategy with which Obama approached the […]

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