Big Bipartisan On Campus
A couple years ago at what was then Yearly Kos, I was quoted in the Washington Post saying that Joe Lieberman was more harmful to progressive policies than, say, Ben Nelson, because Nelson didn't undermine Democrats in the media or borrow Republican talking points.
Let me say that I was wrong, and that Nelson is trying his best to become the new Village darling with a package of cuts to the recovery bill that would negate all of the positive benefits it could possibly offer.
Total Reductions: $80 billion
Head Start, Education for the Disadvantaged, School improvement, Child Nutrition, Firefighters, Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, Prisons, COPS Hiring, Violence Against Women, NASA, NSF, Western Area Power Administration, CDC, Food Stamps
Public Transit $3.4 billion, School Construction $60 billion
Defense operations and procurement, STAG Grants, Brownfields, Additional transportation funding
The Axis of Centrism, in addition to all that, wants to cut aid to the states.
By Thursday evening, aides said the group had drafted a list of nearly $90 billion in cuts, including $40 billion in aid for states, more than $14 billion for various education programs, $4.1 billion to make federal buildings energy efficient and $1.5 billion for broadband Internet service in rural areas. But they remained short of a deal.
I'm sorry, but anyone who proposes cutting funding to state and local governments at this point is a complete moron. The fastest stimulus is government purchasing. The jobs most in need of saving are at the state level. With slashed aid to states, millions of teachers, firefighters, and cops will be out of work. And cutting food stamps is just as dumb, considering that poor people are most likely to spend just on their own basic necessities, increasing demand. The money they don't have to spend on food will go elsewhere in the economy.
Good to see as well that funding for the military, which we spend more on that every other country on Earth combined, is getting increases in the plan. That seems fair and balanced.
Harry Reid is trying to hold the line on this nonsense, but I'm sure Nelson and his axis will go lovingly into the arms of their media cohorts and decry all the "wasteful spending" on poor people that just has to go. Sen. Jeff Merkley, who can't get on the teevee because of all that patchouli oil and tie-dye, makes the obvious point: there's nothing wasteful about creating a job. That would be a unique perspective!
One project they're attacking hit close to home. They're calling funding to restore forest health and prevent wildfires in National Forests wasteful. Coming from Southern Oregon, I can tell you firsthand they are dead wrong.
I grew up in Southern Oregon. My father was a sawmill worker and a logger and his job put food on the table. Right now Douglas County, where I was born, has an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent. That's the highest it's been in decades and well above the current national average. Douglas County is home to many of Oregon's timber workers and they need the stability of a good paying job. The money that would be allocated to counties like Douglas to restore forest health and prevent forest fires would put these folks back to work.
Let me explain. Due to federal mismanagement, there are millions of acres of choked and overgrown second-growth forests. These forests are a complete menace. They are diseased and are very little use for strong ecosystems. Moreover, they are a huge fire hazard. Thinning these neglected forests is essential for restoring forest health and generating thousands of rural jobs.
Let me emphasize this: this provision will create thousands of rural jobs. This is a win-win for our rural economies and our ecosystems.
Preventing wildfires is something that desperately needs to be done in any economic condition and now has the added benefit of providing jobs in areas that need them most. How Republicans can call job creation for hardworking millworkers like my dad "wasteful spending" is a mystery to me.
If Nelson and his centrists are choking on the price tag of the bill, they can get rid of the tax cuts they all inserted that will do nothing for anyone.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME), one of the four Republicans considered genuinely open to cooperation with Democrats on a workable economic recovery bill, just released a statement saying she was approached by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to come up with a list of trims from the $275 billion-plus tax section of the stimulus.
Pruning the tax section of the stimulus is an idea that could hold promise for liberals, many of whom are concerned about the hits that education and transit would take in the centrist senators' package of cuts. The portion Snowe is looking at contains plenty of cuts, for both businesses and individuals -- some of them added in the hopes of winning GOP support -- but also a number of tax credits that could take money out of government coffers in the short term while increasing economic growth in the long term.
If it suits you to make a bunch of phone calls, if there's anything to go to the mats over, it's this: defeating the Nelson-Collins amendment and preserving at least the good parts of the bill. Not to mention making David Broder cry. At least the bulk of the Republicans are honest neo-Hooverists; I respect them more. Ben Nelson and his "very serious" friends deserve to go down.
...by the way, Krugman is absolutely right about this:
Which raises the obvious question: shouldn’t Obama have made a much bigger plan, say $1.3 trillion, his opening gambit? If he had, he could have conceded to the centrists by cutting it to $1.2 trillion, and still have had a plan with a good chance of really controlling this slump. Instead he made preemptive concessions, only to find the centrists demanding another pound of flesh as proof of their centrist power.
Obama negotiated with himself, and this is the result. We can only speculate on what might have been if he didn't pre-compromise the bill.
...Ben Nelson, by the way: for state aid before he was against it.