In the Arena

The House Vote

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Three thoughts:

1. This is not unprecedented. Republicans did not give Bill Clinton’s 1993 economic plan a single vote–and you remember how the Clinton Plan led to the Great Depression of 1993…oh, wait a minute, no–it led to the Great Expansion of the 1990s. The point is, Republican economic thinking–with its tax cut obsessive-compulsive disorder–has proven as wrong as it is, apparently, immutable. 

2. This is not final. The Senate version of the bill is likely to get Republican votes, especially now that the Alternate Minimum Tax exemption has been included at Sen. Grassley’s (R-Iowa) behest. There is also likely to be a pork-wringing exercise when the bill gets to the reconciliation stage of the process. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a not-insignificant number of House Republicans vote for final passage, especially those who hail from districts that Obama won.

3. There is an awful lot of crap in this bill. And much of it is Republican-style crap, as Tom Edsall reported: more than $23 billion in old-fashioned tax breaks to corporations, which stimulates nothing except the lobbyists’ bank statements. That sort of thing is as disgraceful as it is inevitable–the grease needed to get votes for the final package. I’d prefer a more elegant bill–and especially one that includes more spending programs targeted on an energy-efficient future, including more rail transit (as well as an Infrastructure Bank to vet all new programs, as Obama promised during the campaign). I’d also prefer to have been born with reflexes quick enough to enable me to play shortstop for the Mets. The most important thing is to get this big messy booster shot  moving into the economy as quickly as possible. (Although I do hope we double back later and make a major effort to remove corporate loopholes from the swiss cheese tax code–combined with a modest reduction of the corporate tax rate, which stands as one of the highest in the world, mostly because the plethora of loopholes make such a high rate necessary).

More Crap: This “Buy American” codicil in the bill is a really bad idea. It is a form of Smoot-Hawley protectionism, which will limit markets for US products overseas–note the remarks of Caterpillar’s DC lobbyist–and keep the economy in full stall here.