Democrats Must Face the Music
The jig is up.
The stimulus is a bust. That has some serious political ramifications for Democrats who will be on the ballot in 2010.
The president sold the stimulus on the promise he'd save or create 3-4 million jobs this year and that unemployment would be held to 8%. Reuters reports:
So far, it has saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs, a relatively small impact on an economy that is still losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month due to the recession.
While the monthly tally of jobs lost appears to be shrinking, the National Association for Business Economists on Wednesday predicted total U.S. job losses of roughly 4.5 million in 2009, leading to a jobless rate of 9.8 percent. ...
Obama's top economic adviser, Cristina Romer, told MSNBC she was optimistic about some improving economic indicators, that it appeared "we are nearing the bottom" of the economic trough and that growth may well resume by year's end.
"The gold standard is going to be jobs numbers. And realistically, we're not going to see us adding jobs for a while," she said.
It is not surprising that the Republicans are pointing to the pork barrel program and decrying the plan as a flop. Minority Whip Eric Cantor (who organized the unanimous Republican opposition to the stimulus) explained, "In the 100 days since that misdirected bill was enacted, well over 1 million Americans have lost their jobs. ... These are not the results America hoped for."
To make their point, Republicans have put out a handy chart showing the magnitude of the job losses. And they have come out with rhetorical guns blazing at the president.
Majority Leader John Boehner was scathing in his assessment:
What's most remarkable about this latest stimulus report is what's missing: funding for a skateboard park in Rhode Island, checks to the deceased in Maryland, taxpayer money for John Murtha's "Airport For No One" in his own backyard, and other well-chronicled examples of old-fashioned government waste. The trillion-dollar "stimulus" has fallen short of the administration's claims, and middle-class families and small businesses are paying dearly. It hasn't created the jobs American families hoped for, brought the transparency to government the President promised, or moved money into communities as quickly as the administration pledged. On every score, it has not lived up to the expectations set out for it, all while leaving our children and grandchildren to foot the bill.
And it doesn't help the Democrats when the president's photo-ops turn out to be tales of woe for those not really helped by the stimulus plan. For example, CNN reported:
It was a success story the White House was eager to highlight: Earlier this year, President Obama attended the graduation of 25 police recruits in Columbus, Ohio, touting it as a victory for the federal stimulus package. On March 6 in Columbus, Ohio, President Obama touted the jobs the stimulus plan would save. ... But the White House said the $1.2 million grant only guaranteed their jobs until the end of the year. And facing a growing deficit and a fight to pass an income tax hike, Columbus Police on Tuesday announced massive budget cuts that could mean hundreds of layoffs
Whoops. And those Caterpillar employees whose jobs were going to be saved? Well, Caterpillar had some hefty layoffs. Another photo-op gone bad.
The political ramifications of the non-stimulative stimulus plan are plain. Republicans opposed the bill en masse and will now run with the "I told you so" argument, pointing out that they had their own plan of tax breaks and infrastructure spending which would arguably have produced better results than the grab bag of liberal spending programs.
Democrats on the ballot next year will need to defend their votes and their party's stewardship of the economy. With unemployment anticipated to hit double digits next year that might not be an easy task.
Moreover, Republicans will argue that the stimulus actually did produce something -- a sea of red ink. While George W. Bush was no model of fiscal sobriety, Obama is truly in a class by himself when it comes to piling up the debt. And this is of great concern not only to conservatives, but to key independent voters as well.
Republicans have been bashed for being the party of "no." But in 2010 when unemployment and the deficit have soared, there are boarded-up Chrysler and GM dealerships in nearly every large and mid-sized city in America, and the Democrats are trotting out plans for tax increases to close the budget gap (here comes the VAT tax), those "no" votes may look prescient. And as for alternatives, Republicans will point to their suggestions for the stimulus which the president rejected out of hand and items on their agenda (e.g., domestic energy development, corporate and capital gains tax cuts, reasonable budget discipline).
Democrats have lined up behind a popular president in 2009. But in 2010 Obama's poll numbers may be considerably lower and, in any event, do little to insulate them from an angry electorate. After all, "the gold standard is going to be the jobs number."