So much for the definition -- on to the case in point: Obama's economic recovery plan.
Let's say you're a hospital administrator. A majority of the doctors at your hospital think patients with infections should be treated with antibiotics. A minority -- a loud minority -- believe those patients should be leached or, better yet, bled. Only in that way, they maintain, will the foul humours be released. (Note: they recommend bleeding no matter what the patient's condition, from robust health to death rattle.)
"I know," you proclaim, "let's compromise! We'll cut the dose of antibiotics in half, and we'll placate the minority with some bleeding! That way everybody will like me, and the bleeders won't shout quite so loud when they go on Fox News."
Listen, Barack, stop being such a goddamned pansy. A half dose of antibiotics (spending) and a half dose of bleeding (tax cuts) ensures that the patient dies. If you're re-elected in four years, it won't be because you knuckled under to a pack of loud-mouthed Republican troglodytes. You don't have to compromise, because if they won't go along with a real stimulus package, it simply means that they hate America. You are the goddamned popular president (albeit not yet especially popular with me), so use the goddamned popularity you worked so hard to win and get us out of this mess.
Tax cuts -- $500 for individuals and $1000 for couples -- will not stimulate anything. The money will go straight to the banks to pay down debt, which was exactly what was done with the last stimulus package. There is NO economic reason to promulgate stupid little tax cuts, except to push more public money at the very same people who created the current crisis. Did a Republican ever espouse bipartisanism? Even when goddamned Bush lost the popular vote, did it ever occur to him to compromise with Democrats?
I'm not saying helping people get out of debt is a bad idea, but a tax cut is the wrong way to do it. The average household owes over $9000 in credit card debt, with interest rates from the mid to high teens. Those who have missed a payment or two may find themselves paying interest rates in the upper twenties.
Once upon a time -- that is, before 1978 -- rates that high were illegal in every state but Delaware and Nevada. All the other states protected their residents with anti-usury laws. Then came the Marquette decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that banks could charge borrowers in any state whatever interest was legal in the state where the bank was based.
As you might expect, banks from all over the country started relocating their corporate offices to Delaware and Nevada; then, so as not to lose their banking industries, all the other states overturned their anti-usury laws. If the new administration wants to help people get out of debt, trying to get a federal anti-usury law through Congress would be a great way to do it. At the very least, there should be a limit on interest charged by banks taking federal bailout money.
The money that Obama wants to blow in tax cuts would be much better spent in direct aid to the states. State tax revenues are crashing, and state governments are responding with budget cuts. That means job losses for workers in state and local government -- clerks, secretaries, teachers, fire fighters, librarians, social workers, trash collectors and, if things get bad enough, police. Thirty-seven states are required by their constitutions to balance their budgets, so governors will have no choice if they don't get help right away.
Yes, money for infrastructure projects is a fine thing, and should help put many of those in the construction trades back to work, but helping to support state payrolls should not be ignored -- and the twenty-two Republican governors will appreciate it every bit as much as the twenty-eight Democrats.