Considering the fact that 36 out of 41 Republican senators just voted to nix the idea of a stimulus package entirely and instead pledged their allegiance to a package that consisted entirely of tax cuts (!), I would like to make a modest proposal to President Obama. Actually, there are two versions. He can pick whichever he likes best.
The Obama Administration needs to craft a stimulus package that will actually stand a chance of halting our economic free-fall, go directly to the people with a half-hour speech/econ 101 lesson—Paul Krugman could be his TA—and say, “This is what we believe is our best chance for survival. We gave Republican ideology a go, and it turns out that prosperity does not, in fact, trickle down. The evidence is in: tax cuts for the wealthy, rampant de-regulation, and eviscerated government programs have produced misery on a global scale. [Points to scary graphs in Nobel Laureate’s hands.] So let us experiment. We in this Administration are willing to put ourselves on the line for a progressive agenda. If we fail, you can vote for a different approach in four years.” Along with this, the Democrats would stop yielding ground to the Republicans over this economic plan, and those quivering souls who are doubting the idea of stimulus spending would get a grip and remember November 4th: the public voted for a progressive economic philosophy, so the Dems can always blame their constituents if things go bad.
Alternatively, the Administration could say that all the states that went blue in this last election get full stimulus-package treatment—investment in infrastructure, child healthcare, unemployment insurance, library subsidies, education programs, you name it— while those states that were solidly red (or who elected hard-right Republicans like John Boehner) can continue experimenting with their tax cuts and shrinking government programs. In four years, we’ll re-evaluate which states have fared better and are overall happier, wealthier, smarter, closer to achieving eudaimonia (human fulfillment). This plan has two distinct advantages: 1) if 21 states didn’t receive federal funding, more could go to the rest of us, and 2) it combines a certain libertarian, laissez-faire, we-won’t-force-you-to-pass-Econ-101-if-you-don’t-want-to coolness with that Republican you-made-your-bed-now-you-must-lie-in-it attitude toward personal responsibility. (I’m sure Phil Gramm, for example, would love to be able to boast that Texas didn’t take any government handouts.) If the Republicans are ideologically consistent, they should love this idea.
Hmmm. The more I think about it, the more I favor Option #2…