A new era of old tactics

With stimulus package, Democrats perpetuate Republican blame game.

By Henry Phillips

If the economy were a car, the Democrats would blame the under-inflated tires instead of the empty gas tank. Meanwhile, the Republicans would be in the backseat with a bottle of scotch, advocating safer driving habits after losing his license for eight straight years of drunk driving. The $787 billion stimulus package has brought out the worst in American politics, sending the ideals of “hope” and “change” crashing into the formidable brick wall of reality. Obama should not only veto the stimulus package he has pledged to sign, he should take a stand against “politics as usual.” His party has played upon misguided populist instincts to pass a poorly crafted stimulus package. Sadly enough, the political tactics of the Democrats under Obama are already reminiscent of those of the GOP under Bush.

The Democrats and media alike have recently been doing a fantastic job attacking red herrings in a toxic sea of financial issues. Citibank has received $45 billion in bailout money after losing $20 billion over the past five quarters. And what do the Democrats blame for it all? The CEO’s million-dollar salary. That comes out to about .002 percent of the bailout money. Sure there have been cases of CEOs taking overly indulgent kickbacks, but this isn’t the reason the economy is struggling. The portion of the stimulus package designed to limit executive pay is not just harmless political posturing. Capping executive pay could drive the most talented people to other companies that will pay them at the going market rate, which will result in the hiring of second-tier talent by the very banks that most need assistance. This is a dangerous attempt to promote a political agenda by crafting an exaggerated enemy that nevertheless stirs up fierce emotion. Sound familiar?

If it isn’t all Wall Street’s fault then it must be China’s, right? The Democrats would have you believe so. The “Buy American” provisions in the stimulus bill are threatening to revive the dangerous spirit of protectionism. If we want long-term investment that will yield results for future generations, we can’t prop up inefficient sectors of the U.S. economy. But the “Buy American” provisions may do just that, distorting markets and requiring that companies pay more for potentially worse products. Then we have to hope that the worst doesn’t occur and other nations don’t build their own protectionist barriers. Maybe each member of Congress should be sent a copy of Charles Wheelan’s Naked Economics.

Republicans, however, are hardly the heroes in all this. The GOP resembles Michael Vick right now, and not just because it likes blowing money on unnecessary violence. When Vick was arrested on charges of dog fighting, he suspiciously announced that he had just “found Jesus.” The Republicans, too, have apparently found their faith in their darkest hour: Having just spent eight years ballooning the deficit out of control, they are all of a sudden embracing the religion of balanced budgets and penny-pinching. As infuriating as it is to hear this from them now, they do have a point.

I have to imagine that the Republicans tried less than the Democrats to make the stimulus package bipartisan. They wanted all along to be able to vote against it and turn it into a campaign issue. While some Republicans rightly attacked the stimulus package’s principle that we can spend our way out of this crisis, the truth is that they wanted to be seen fighting a losing battle.

Mr. President, you should veto this bill and send a message that the current political blame games are dangerous and unacceptable. Democrats, you need to stop using “the last eight years” as an argument. Yes, they were abysmal. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to use the same sleazy political tactics as the GOP, nor does it mean all your ideas are correct and the opposition is always wrong. Republicans, eat the humble pie and work on getting a bipartisan bill passed that promotes some of the “values” you forgot about over the past eight years. And let’s all quit employing scapegoats so we can start employing people.

Henry Phillips is a second-year in the College majoring in economics.