Economics

Promoters of the Stimulus Package Cop Line From Nike And Give Up Arguing the Merits: "Let's Just Do It."

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Who said this yesterday in The Washington Post?: "Is it a perfect package? Of course not. But we're past that. Let's just do it."

Twas Alice Rivlin, former Clinton administration buget director—and former stimulus package critic. Return now to the thrilling days of yesterweek, when Rivlin made the case that the shit sandwich now being served up should be broken into two distinct efforts. First there should be an "anti-recession" bill that would address immediate economic concerns and attempt to bump the econony upward. Second, there should be longer-range planning for infrastructure spending and entitlement reform, all subject to pay-as-you-go limits so that Congress doesn't keep pushing the big day of reckoning into the future via even larger debt:

I understand the reasons for lumping together the anti-recession and investment packages into one big bill that can pass quickly in this emergency. A large combined package will get attention and help restore confidence that the federal government is taking action-even if part the money spends out slowly. But there are two kinds of risks in combining the two objectives. One is that money will be wasted because the investment elements were not carefully crafted. The other is that it will be harder to return to fiscal discipline as the economy recovers if the longer run spending is not offset by reductions or new revenues.

"Let's just do it" is the sort of surrender you expect from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when they're surrounded by the Bolivian army, not the sort of commentary you expect from a serious thinker or political actor. Here's hoping some of the Republicans have grown a backbone since last fall. Which is another way of saying that the business in white flags should be brisk over the next coupla days.