Yesterday, Chris Bowers asked: "Which side is Obama on?" I don't know if he'll think the President's op-ed in the Washington Post will clarify things, but I think it's pretty decent.
What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives -- action that's swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.
Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.
That's why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.
This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it's a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.
In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.
I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.
Much of this reads like a speech on the stump - a speech HE OUGHT TO GIVE, by the way, and as soon as possible, and every day until the bill passes, not in Washington but on a barnstorming tour around the country. (This is actually kind of starting, by the way - Joe Biden is standing out in front of a train station in Maryland tomorrow.) As Chuck Todd said yesterday, Democrats feel "that basically Matt Drudge has been the managing editor for deciding which part of the stimulus package gets highlighted", and that's basically true except for the "Democrats feel" part. They are gunning for the young President using the familiar "build-him-up-to-tear-him-down" narrative. It's all a game to them, and the only course of action is to go fully around the filter, taking the message directly to the people, and making the argument.
Obama's pretty clear on what he considers a priority in the stimulus.
Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.
Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.
Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.
And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.
That makes up the core and well over 80% of the plan, designed to create many jobs across sectors, across demographics and throughout the economy, because the current recession is similarly systemic and broad. It's not perfect and ought to be improved - some of the Senate amendments have been atrocious, there isn't nearly enough for transit (despite the Biden train-stop appearance) and way too much for roads and cars, and the pre-compromised business tax cuts aren't worth being in here. I'm worried that the final bill will be too small, and the axis of Nelson and Collins need to be fought. But if you hone in on these core principles, the whole thing isn't bad. It's certainly a more rational piece of legislation than the flailing Republicans, now decrying legislation they've previously voted for, could ever muster.
Obama's in the arena. More Democrats need to join him. for this reason if nothing else: If they allow this to be hijacked and rendered ineffective, their political futures are bleak.
...also, it appears Obama wants the bill to remain the same size or grow:
Collins, who said she preferred a stimulus package totaling about $650 billion, said Obama made a “very strong pitch to have a bill that is considerably bigger than what I might like and argued that the economy is sufficiently troubled that legislation has to be large enough to have the kind of impact that we all want.” She said she is “committed to trying to get to a yes vote.”