Weekend Watchdog Wrap-Up

Bill Scher

The Sunday shows go 0-for-3 for the Watchdog, but the softball questioning produced some notable information.

Obama economic adviser Robert Rubin was not challenged on his past support for deregulation. Sen. John McCain and his economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin were not challenged on their contradictory arguments about refundable tax credits. And Jack Welch was not challenged on his past ridiculously optimistic analysis on the state of the economy.

But even if misinformation and past economic records were not held to account, the comments from Rubin and Holtz-Eakin about a possible economic stimulus package indicate the state of the debate.

Rubin, known for prioritizing budget austerity during the Clinton administration, said on Face The Nation that a “large” economic stimulus package is needed:

I think what we need to do is to have a very large program, and people have been talking–some of the
numbers are around $150 billion, perhaps more than that, and it should consist of … help for cities and states that are
now running into difficulties so they could continue to–with their programs. It could have infrastructure in it, as long as the infrastructure is ready to go right now. Because these have to be programs that give you a very large return in terms of economic demand relative to the cost, and also that go into effect very quickly. But you could do all of that, and it needs to be done, in a very short period of time in order to stimulate economic demand in a time of a weakening

While Holtz-Eakin, whose boss has championed a “spending freeze,” would not take a stimulus package “off the table:”

Well, obviously Senator McCain would never take off the table anything that’d be helpful. But the idea that somehow tough economic times are license to spend money on anything you can think of is something you want to look at very carefully.

When even the campaign advocating taking a “hatchet” to the budget won’t dismiss a stimulus package, it would seem the question is not if we have a stimulus package, but how big, and what’s in it?

And Rubin’s open-ended comment that “more than” $150 billion may be needed helps set the terms of the debate, with $150 billion just the minimum of what’s being discussed.

This is likely where much attention is going to go immediately after Election Day, and progressives will need to get to work to push back on the myopic adherent to austerity, and ensure that any stimulus package is a big enough investment to spark short-term demand and help solve long-term problems in energy, infrastructure, health care and education.

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