Stimulating Partisanship, not the Economy

The wind no longer at his back, the path not rising to meet him, Barack Obama is angry.

After less than three weeks in office, Obama sounds more like a president whose term is running out than one whose White House days have just begun. Addressing Energy Department bureaucrats on Wednesday and the Democrats’ party retreat Thursday, Obama’s words were bland but his tone was angry.

The Obama we saw was more the sharp-elbowed candidate of the primaries than the smooth, choreographed rhetorician of last fall. What happened?

Simple: most Republicans are — at long last — rediscovering conservative principles and refusing to budge from them.

Even though they’re winning the votes, the Democrats are losing the stimulus argument because the bill they prepared is far too expensive and won’t stimulate the economy. At the end of the day Friday, the Senate announced a deal, brought about by RINOs Arlen Specter and Susan Collins joining with Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) to make the deal. And no one knows how much the deal will cost.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said it was 93% spending and 7% stimulus. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had the best perspective on it: “Republicans are ready to support a stimulus bill. But we will not support an aimless spending spree that masquerades as a stimulus.” And that’s just what it is.

According to a Congressional Budget Office report released Wednesday, the Obama-Pelosi bill will stimulate the gross domestic product by between 1.2 and 3.6 percent by the end of 2010. And after that it — under the Senate version — it would actually reduce the gross domestic product in the longer term, with government spending ‘crowding out” private investment.

The inevitable conclusion — which CBO didn’t say directly — is that the economy will actually do better over ten years if Congress did nothing than if it passes this bill. And there’s more bad news in the bill.

It will cost us $350 billion in interest payments over ten years because it’s all borrowed money. The payments will balloon suddenly and the bill we’ll have to pay will push our economy farther down.

Sound familiar? It should. The Obama-Pelosi plan is just a sub-prime mortgage on America’s future. It’ll bankrupt us even before the rest of the Obama agenda is put in place. If you add to it the Obama plan to kill American industry with the anti-global warming scheme called “cap and trade,” further bank and automaker bailouts, and other spending Obama has in mind, the level of inflation and unemployment we’ll suffer will make the “misery index” days of the Carter administration seem a golden age of prosperity.

At the Democrats’ party retreat Thursday night — held at the lavish Kingsmill Golf Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia — according to The Politico, President Obama said Nancy Pelosi was a “great speaker of the House” and called her “a rock.” But Pelosi is the rock on which Obama’s economic stimulus package foundered. Her arrogance is fueling Republicans and may yet sink the Senate deal.

The contrast between Obama’s anger and Conservatives’ morale was drawn in a Wednesday press conference held by House and Senate conservatives to spur Senate Republicans to do what their House colleagues did a week before.

Cong. Tom Price (R-Ga.) — chairman of the Republican Study Committee — joining with his Senate counterpart — Steering Committee Chairman Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — put a group of about sixteen House and Senate conservatives (as well as Sen. Lindsay Graham) in the Senate tv gallery to proclaim unity against the bloated “stimulus” package.

DeMint and Price are not given to hyperbole, but they know three things the president doesn’t understand.

The first is that conservative Republicans — relieved of the burden of George Bush — are revived and resurgent. Their morale is unusually high because they’ve rediscovered something they’d forgotten: the nationwide support that flows to them when they stand on conservative principles. Opposition to the over-porked (even by Washington standards) so-called “stimulus” rests on those principles, and their political gain is both natural and inevitable.

The second is that — just as Vice President Biden predicted — there will be a vote backlash against the phony stimulus package just as there was to President Bush’s partial nationalization of the financial industry.

The atmosphere of arrogance that Pelosi has created in the House is making it impossible to cross party lines to compromise. As Cong. John Shadegg (R-Az.) said at the Wednesday presser, six Republican amendments after were included in the stimulus package in a committee markup, Pelosi herself stripped three out before the bill reached the floor without even telling the Republicans she’d done so.

She made it easy for Republicans to unite against it.

The third thing the president isn’t aware of is the under-the-radar leadership that some Republicans have performed on the stimulus bill.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had — before the stimulus package came up — suggested to Republicans that they should look for an opportunity to unite. Pelosi handed it to them after cobbling together such an awful bill that eleven Democrats joined with every Republican in voting against it. The stimulus bill was the Republicans’ first opportunity to try the idea and it worked because of Pelosi’s arrogance and because of the tireless efforts of Price and other conservatives (especially Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va)) to corral the votes.

The RINO-generated Senate bill will pass the senate this week and will go to a House-Senate conference to work out the differences. But Speaker Pelosi, according to the Washington Post, said the senate cuts, “…do violence to what we are trying to do for the future." Obama should be wary of Pelosi prevailing in the conference because if she does, the Republicans in the House can once again unite against it. If they can whittle away a few Senate Dems, the bill cannot pass.

Outside the RINO caucus, Senate and House Republicans still oppose the bill. As well they should. It’s a fiscal iceberg we have to steer around.

And Senate conservatives understand this. On Friday, one senior Republican senator told me the bill, “… repeats the mistake …of the first stimulus package, about a year ago, when we sent people’s tax rebate checks. You know what it did? It did nothing. Except it increased the deficit by about $150 billion.” He and the other conservatives can read the CBO report: they know this one won’t do any better.

Tomorrow, Treasury Secretary Geithner will reveal Obama’s plan to use the second half of the Bush-Paulson bank bailout money to actually help the credit markets. Which the first half didn’t do. Tonight, President Obama will have a prime-time press conference to try to sell his stimulus package to the American people. Tomorrow, he will take his charm offensive on the road to market this sub-prime mortgage on our future to its opponents: the majority of Americans.

It should be too little, and too late. Republicans — saturating talk radio, cable television and pages such as these — have apparently beaten Obama with the unpleasant truths about his economic adventurism.

If Republicans stick to their rediscovered conservative principles, they can kill this bill and save our economy from the depression that otherwise lies ahead.

Cartoon by Brett Noel.