Irwin Stelzer has a smart and unexpected piece in the Weekly Standard, praising the general outlines of the Obama stimulus package. Two specific points he makes are noteworthy:
1. It’s a good thing the a reasonable percentage–25%, according to the Administration–of the spending occurs in the out years, especially if the money is spent on projects that will bring long-term benefits to society. After all, it would be a good thing to build a smart electrical grid even if the economy were booming (and it will save money on energy costs to retrofit federal buildings). The continuing expenditures also guard against an economic contraction after the initial sugar rush of tax cuts, as happened during the Great Depression.
2. Obama has taken into account the back-end deficit problems by promising entitlement reform. Stelzer correctly locates the most important area for reform in the fee-for-service Medicare system (although Obama hasn’t said he’s headed there yet). Obviously, if the rest of us make do with hmo’s and preferred-provider plans, the elderly should probably have managed care as well–ideally, in a national system that includes the rest of us.
Finally, Stelzer makes this point: if the Republicans really must exercise their reflexive political impulses, it’s best not to tinker around the edges with their criticism. They should provide a supple alternative. What would a full-blooded conservative stimulus plan look like? Go on, John McCain and John Boehner, make my day.