Centrism and stimulus

I haven't been following the stimulus debate quite as closely as I should, but from all accounts it is pretty clear that the Senate "compromise" worked out by the "centrists" is 1) probably dumb and 2) certainly arbitrary.  I'll farm it out to Ezra Klein:

But the gang of job-cutters — to steal Dean Baker's elegant formulation
— hasn't justified their cuts on grounds of either size or efficacy.
Why is $900 billion a stimulus package they would have to oppose, but
$800 billion is a stimulus package they can support? There's been no
explanation for the superiority of $800 billion against $600 billion,
or even against $1.2 trillion. Nelson has not argued that the likely
output gap over the next two years has been overstated in CBO estimates
— and way overstated by Goldman-Sachs' estimates — and thus the stimulus is too large for our purposes.

Nor have they argued that the $40 billion in state aid and $20
billion in school construction will be less stimulative than the $70
billion Alternative Minimum Tax patch, of which exactly 0.5% goes
towards the bottom 60 percent of the income distribution (which are, of
course, the folks most in need of relief, and most likely to spend it

In fact, they haven't really argued anything at all. Rather, it's
been a dazzling display of the most analytically bankrupt strain of
centrism: The belief that the right answer lies, by definition,
somewhere between the answers that are already on the table. The
Nelson-Collins bill hasn't been justified in terms of virtues so much
as in terms of abstract numerical positioning. It's a neat trick, and
widely applicable. If one party announced a bill mandating that all
Americans must bathe themselves in mud and brambles, and the other
party opposed the "Mud and Brambles Bathing Act of 2009," Collins and
Nelson would be right there to explain that the American people are
tired of dogma and interest group politics and they have brokered a
compromise mandating that all Americans take a monthly mud and brambles
shower instead.

Ezra also links to this comic which wonderfully sums it up:



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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