The last time they did this, I had no doubts that the Republicans were wrong. When not one of them voted for Clinton's Deficit Reduction Act in 1993, it was about as pure an example as I can recall of partisan mule-headedness and populist demagoguery. Not to mention the fact that they were wrong on the issue. Argue cause and effect all you like, the passage of that legislation WAS followed by dramatic deficit reduction. And the way the GOP went to their home districts and told everybody about how those awful Democrats had raised their taxes was unconscionable. Especially when South Carolina Republicans said it — most people in S.C. did not see their taxes increase, unless you count the 4-cent rise in gasoline tax. And what importance can you honestly attach to 4 cents a gallon when monthly fluctuations in price are usually far more than that? (Of course, you know what I think about gas taxes.)
I remember actually watching TV news — something you know I don't often do — during that vote. Somebody had Al Gore on live, and Al was as stiff and awkward and priggish as only he can be as he talked about how wrong the Republicans were not to support it, with the roll call going on in the background (I'm thinking it was the Senate; in any case not one Republican in Congress voted for it). But he was right.
This time, I'm not as sure. I'd LIKE for our elected representatives to get together on anything as big as spending $819 billion, rather than splitting along partisan lines. I mean, if we're going to do it, let's do it together — doing it divided increases the chances that it the stimulus will fail. I say that because Phil Gramm had a point — so much of the economy is psychological. If the country sees this as THE plan that everyone agrees on, the country is more likely to have its confidence boosted. If it sees every member of one of the two major parties (for now) decry it as a waste doomed to fail, we could be looking at some self-fulfilled prophecy.
That said, I don't know but what a Republican — or UnPartisan, or anyone else — who says this plan isn't going to do the job doesn't have a point. After all, Paul Krugman says it won't, and he's no Republican.
On the other hand, their reason why this package isn't quite the thing is all bass-ackwards. They complain that only about a third of it is tax cuts. Well, I'm worried that a third of it IS tax cuts, and that those tax cuts will have zero effect on stimulating the economy. I haven't seen figures yet on exactly what the tax cuts will mean to the average American, but as I pointed out before, in an earlier version, the amount we're talking about would have given each worker only about $9 a week — which is just barely enough to go to a movie. By yourself. If you don't buy popcorn.
If you're going to have a stimulus package, either SPEND enough to really kick-start the economy (and this doesn't appear to be enough), or target tax cuts to where they are likely to stimulate some real activity. Unfortunately, in trying to provide something for everybody — and then going to woo the GOP in person — Obama may have produced a solution that doesn't do enough of anything. And then, after all that trouble, you fail to get the bipartisan support that you were trying to buy with that $300 billion in tax cuts.
As for what you will probably hear them yammer about most on TV news (and in the rest of the blogosphere) — what partisan political effect this vote will have — I don't have a dog in that fight. Whether the Republicans have cooked their own goose by voting against a plan that will work, or set themselves up to be blamed for it NOT working, or are poised to recapture the House because they were the only ones to see it wouldn't work, or whatever… I don't care. I'd like to see both parties suffer in the next election, just on general UnPartisan principles. Unfortunately, I might get my wish: The stimulus could fail, and both parties be blamed — but that be the least of the nation's worries. You know what I'd be worried about right now if I were a Republican? I'd worry that my caucus just invested its hopes in economic failure — just as Harry Reid et al. bet all their chips on our failing in Iraq. That's not a position you want to be in — your nation having to fail for you to be right. But that's their lookout, not mine.
For my part, I hope the stimulus works. Or that something we do soon works. And as long as it does, I don't care who gets the credit — even a political party.