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February 10, 2009 06:13 PM UTC

Negotiating the stimuls politics

  • by: Steve Balboni

Bob Herbert raises a point in his New York Times column today that I’ve been kicking around a bit the last few days. Here’s Herbert,

Mr. Obama is like a championship chess player, always several moves ahead of friend and foe alike. He’s smart, deft, elegant and subtle. While Lindsey Graham was behaving like a 6-year-old on the Senate floor and Pete Sessions was studying passages in his Taliban handbook, Mr. Obama and his aides were assessing what’s achievable in terms of stimulus legislation and how best to get there.

I’d personally like to see a more robust stimulus package, with increased infrastructure spending and fewer tax cuts. But the reality is that Mr. Obama needs at least a handful of Republican votes in the Senate to get anything at all done, and he can’t afford to lose this first crucial legislative fight of his presidency.

The Democrats may succeed in bolstering their package somewhat in conference, but I think Mr. Obama would have been satisfied all along to start his presidency off with an $800 billion-plus stimulus program.

Obama is a very smart politician and during the campaign it was apparent that he took the long view, had a strategy and stuck by it. Given that I’m not so sure that the stimulus package, as it stands now, isn’t very close to what Obama thought he could get.

Whenever you run a piece of legislation you always write in provisions that you’re willing to negotiate away. You want the other side to feel like they are getting something, when in fact you’re the one actually getting everything you want. I can’t imagine Obama went into this process needing to hold on to every single provision in the original stimulus bill in order to pass the bill that he wanted. He’s smarter than that, he knows how the U.S. Senate operates. he knew the strutting and crowing that would inevitably go on. Did Obama let the Ben Nelson’s of the world strut and crow along the way while not actually giving away anything of real substance?

I think its a real possibility. Yes, they knocked off $100 billion from the total package but they did so in a haphazard manner, just as one would expect of a band of Senators acting on their own egos. And $800 billion ain’t no pocket change. Like Herbert said, if you told Obama (or any Democrat) a month ago that Obama would get an $800 billion dollar stimulus deal done within 3 weeks of taking office I think he (and we) would take it.

Cross-posted at…


10 thoughts on “Negotiating the stimuls politics

  1. Geithner’s speech knocked 150 pts off the Dow because it was so disappointingly vague and created new uncertainties.

    I think he came off smartly vague in his CNBC interview with Brian Williams,  but that didn’t get a good reception in the market.

    So far that smart new president is getting low grades for his economic policy, and it’s going get worse now that Drudge has picked up on the stealth health care nationalization plan.

    1. If the only reason the Dow fell was because Geithner gave a bad speech, expect a rally tomorrow as people try to cash in on all those stupid people who sold because of a speech rather than real valuation concerns.

          1. Why are so relentlessly bitter and boring?  Have you considered self-medicating?


            try once more

            like you did before

            sing a new song


  2. I think the mistake though was putting $300B in tax cuts in before repubs really had to ask for them.  Send the bill to markup w/o taxcuts…heck, sent it to the floor like that.  Let repubs take credit for what they like about the bill.  It would have left repubs even less room to vote against the bill…

    1. I think you’re right and Obama himself has said that he made a tactical error in putting in the tax cuts himself. Thanks for mentioning that, its an important point.  

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