Monday, February 9, 2009

Maine's senators support stimulus

By a 61-36 vote, the Senate voted for cloture on the Obama stimulus package. Maine's two Republican senators, Snowe and Collins, joined Arlen Specter, in crossing the aisle to support the bill, the only members of the GOP to who voted for it.

Robert Reich, secretary of labor under President Clinton, says it's all about partisan politics and the mid-term elections in 2010, as to why only three Republicans are supporting jump starting the economy and putting people back to work.

Weighing in via his blog, had this to say.

Why are Senate Republicans (all, that is, except the lonely moderates Collins, Snowe, and Specter) nixing the stimulus package, as House Republicans did? Not because Obama failed to compromise -- he gave them the tax breaks they wanted, included a whopper for business. Not because Senate Democrats failed to bend -- they agreed to trim more than $100 billion out of a previous version of the bill. Not because Senate Republicans are doctrinally opposed to deficit spending -- many of them happily voted for Bush spending and tax cuts that doubled the federal debt.

The reason has to do with the timing of the economic recovery. If everything goes as well as possible and the stimulus and next round of bank bailouts work perfectly, a turnaround could begin as early as mid-2010. But even under this rosy scenario, employers wouldn't start rehiring until late 2010 because they'll want to be sure the upturn is for real (employment typically lags in a recovery). This means that under the best of circumstances -- assuming the stimulus is big enough to jump-start the economy and the next bank bailout big enough to get credit moving -- most Americans won't feel much better than they do now by November, 2010. Unemployment could easily be hovering close to 8 percent; underemployment, close to 14 percent; and many other indicators, still in the doldrums.

Republicans don't want their fingerprints on the stimulus bill or the next bank bailout because they plan to make the midterm election of 2010 a national referendum on Barack Obama's handling of the economy. They know that by then the economy will still appear sufficiently weak that they can dub the entire Obama effort a failure -- even if the economy would have been far worse without it, even if the economy is beginning to turn around. They'll say "he wanted more government spending, and we said no, but we didn't have the votes. Elect us and we'll turn the economy around by cutting taxes and getting government out of the private sector."

Pretty cynical, if you ask me, but, hey; that's politics, right?

Maine's crumbling infrastructure, with roads rating a grade of D, and bridges that rate a D+, better hope some stimulus money finds its way to our remote corner of the northeast. Not only would the infrastructure upgrades benefit our state, but an additional 6,000 to 7,000 construction jobs, paying middle class wages, would go a long way towards plugging the holes in the state revenue shortfalls.

It's nice to know that my two senators "get it," when it comes to addressing the economic issues facing the country, while the GOP candidate for president, "Mr. Bipartisan," doesn't.

Just 24 minutes until POTUS addresses the American people, in his first prime time performance.

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