Soaring stimulus plan spent too little time in the hangar

Did we move too fast on the stimulus package? Shaunti Feldhahn, a right-leaning columnist, writes the commentary this week, and Andrea Sarvady, a left-leaning columnist, responds.

Shaunti Feldhahn
The “stimulus package,” passed in a panic, is a bad combination: the most expensive and the least understood special appropriations law in history. In attempting to help the economy, it makes radical policy changes that lawmakers would never have approved if they had taken a triage approach and passed the most urgent pieces first, then taken more time to understand others. For example, President Clinton’s welfare reform, lauded as one of the most effective policies of our generation, will be essentially eviscerated by the new methods of a bill passed in just three weeks.
Anyone with Capitol Hill experience knows that large, urgent legislation typically passes in a “fog of war” scenario, with exhausted staffers drafting hundreds or thousands of pages of legislation and other legislators exercising an extreme Ievel of trust that someone relatively smart understands each piece of it. Congressional lawmakers and staffers had just hours to review the 1,000-page stimulus package.
In essence, our leaders didn’t lead: They gave into public panic and threw $787 billion in spaghetti against the wall.
We’ve been in this same economic situation before without lawmakers panicking this way. From 1989 to 1992, for example, we had the same burst housing bubble, savings and loans and other banks failing every day, and hundreds of thousands of people rapidly losing jobs. The unemployment rate was, like today, passing 7 percent (it was even higher during the 1980s), and the sense of urgency led my Senate Banking Committee bosses to work around the clock to get relief and reform passed. And yet, if memory serves, the quickest bill was passed in six months and the longest took more than a year – and was (at around $250 billion) nowhere near the cost of this initiative.
Heritage Foundation budget analyst Brian Riedl explained in an interview:
“We are creating a permanent redesign of the government and economy due to a temporary recession, passed by lawmakers who haven’t even read it. Why do we have to pass this whole thing before Presidents Day? The economy is still going to be there next week.”
Andrea Sarvady
De facto GOP leader Rush Limbaugh took a lot of flak when he admitted that he hopes the Obama presidency fails. Yet after listening to the foot-stamping tantrums of elected Republicans the past few weeks, it’s clear that they’re taking Rush’s obstructionist attitude one step further: They want you, the American people, to fail.
Harsh words, indeed. Yet I promise you, I didn’t move too fast toward this conclusion.
The stimulus plan isn’t perfect, but there’s no perfect solution here. So why not follow the lead of the man we elected to address the crisis just three months ago?
Ah, but then the GOP would have to compromise. Instead, they offer up an alternative bill that relies exclusively on tax cuts, then complain of being “shut out” when their plan isn’t adopted. Did you see Rep. Eric Cantor’s YouTube video (before it was taken down for copyright infringement) that gleefully boasts of the House Republicans’ zero participation while Aerosmith screeches “Back in the Saddle” again.
Back in the saddle, maybe, but finding no trail out of this mess. “You can’t approach something this big with nothing but rhetoric,” Joe Scarborough chided his peers the other day.
Still, maybe we should have spent more time trying to bring a seemingly intractable GOP team to the table. After all, we’re searching for a plan designed to save a dying economy.
I mean, it’s not like this is a war in the Middle East or anything. Now that’s something you rush into …

Andrea Sarvady (ASarvad@gmail.com) is a writer and educator specializing in counseling, and a married mother of three. Shaunti Feldhahn (scfeldhahn@yahoo.com) is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and married mother of two children. Contact them at Universal Press, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

Joe Rutherford