Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Death of "Yes, But..."

On the first anniversary of the stimulus bill, the Washington of absolutes is on display--Obama's "Yes We Can" vs. the GOP's "No You Don't" with little space for the reality of mixed results and mixed feelings about a huge enterprise to save a crashing economy.

"Anniversary of Stimulus Met with Praise and Scorn" is the headline of ProPublica, noting that, in judging whether the stimulus has worked, "where you stand depends on where you sit."

The public-interest journalism organization is getting much less attention for efforts to report on what is actually happening than the partisan conclusions of Vice President Biden that "we have served the American people well” and House Leader Boehner labeling of the results as "dismal."

The media are divided as well. A New York Times analysis emphasizes that "the best-known economic research firms...estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative."

But the Wall Street Journal finds that “instead of spurring recovery, this spending spree has retarded it by frightening the public and business about future tax increases and the rising burden of public debt."

In this closed-minded climate, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank sees benefits for "a crucial sector of the economy: critics of the package, who right now are enjoying record production levels and full employment. This burgeoning industry of conservative lawmakers, political operatives, think tanks and media outlets has benefited enormously from the legislation."

As it always is nowadays, hypocrisy is rampant. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs yesterday nailed House Minority Whip Eric Cantor for viciously trashing the stimulus for wasting billions on pork while requesting and bragging about getting funds for a high-speed rail project in his district.

Meanwhile, the stimulus money is still flowing, however slowly and imperfectly, more may be needed, the economy is slowly recovering while worries about the growing deficit are warranted, but you would never know that as the complex reality by listening to the rhetoric of a Washington that has lost the ability to say "Yes, but..."

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