While few found the stimulus bill perfect for a variety of reasons, most sensible people admit that it was desperately needed. Bernie Horn of CAF called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "a remarkably ‘clean’ bill" and "the biggest and boldest progressive legislation in 40 years." But the praise isn’t one sided. As James Clyburn said:
"Economists across the political spectrum agree that a bold plan is needed to jumpstart the economy. Economist Mark Zandi of Economy.com and an advisor to the McCain Campaign said that the House plan would create 4 million jobs by 2010. In South Carolina, Zandi predicts the recovery package will create or save over 37,000 jobs by 2010 helping to decrease the unemployment rate by 1.7 percent. For every month we don’t act, Zandi predicts an additional 2 percent will be added each month to the unemployment rate. We can’t wait to act. I believe, along with a long list of economic experts, that this package is the best approach to turning our economic crisis around."
Media Matters has a rundown of the zombie lies now in circulation about the bill, but suffice to say that there was no shortage of people willing to sacrifice the American economy for political gamesmanship. The Republicans unleashed their inner Church Lady and demanded contraception be cut for the sinfully promiscuous poor, then complained they didn’t "get" anything in the bill and turned the whole thing into a well-choreographed publicity stunt. They looked like a bunch of petulant, narcissistic brats and did a nice job of making Obama appear measured and statesmanlike by comparison.
But everyone knew that was coming, and their votes weren’t needed. It was more troubling that few Democrats stepped out to defend the bill. Think Progress says that Republicans outnumbered Democrats 2 to 1 on the cable news shows talking about the stimulus. Media Matters has documented the historic bias in booking Republicans, but this felt like something else — Democrats afraid to speak out. Why aren’t they making the argument that Republicans are trying to block an upgrade of the electrical grid to Oklahomans freezing in the dark in the midst of a snowstorm? Or make them take responsibility for the crumbling infrastructure? Obama has mobility right now because his approval numbers are solid. If they start to slip in a relentless GOP onslaught that the Democrats won’t answer, and people start to associate their own personal struggles with what they hear in the zombie lies, those numbers won’t hold.
There are many reasons for progressives to be happy with this bill, but as Paul Krugman, Jamie Galbraith, Dean Baker, Ian Welsh, Stirling Newberry and others have said, the size of the stimulus may ultimately be too small to sufficiently address the problem. If the GOP attack machine is allowed to carry the day unanswered we have seen how easily "up" gets turned into "down" and GOP obstructionism can morph into heroism because everything doesn’t get instantly fixed. This isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning, and our leaders need to stop doing the 2010 cower and start articulating a coherent vision of progressive governance. Because the alternative leaves Obama with nowhere to go, and that is unthinkable.