Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

Delong On The Stimulus: Good Opening Bid
January 11, 2009

In my ongoing effort to convey the insights of genuine economics experts, rather than pretend I'm such an expert myself, economist and blogger Brad DeLong has what seems like a smart take on the stimulus debate. Like Paul Krugman and others, he is skeptical that proposal under discussion is sufficiently large. But he also cautions that crafting a larger package isn't as easy as it sounds: I agree with Paul that this fiscal boost plan is too small, but I do want to admit that doing this well is harder than it looks.

Krugman & Galbraith: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
January 10, 2009

On Saturday morning, the Obama transition team released a memo outlining its calculations about the economic recovery package. The memo's authors are Christina Romer, who will chair the new president's council of economic advisers, and Jared Bernstein, who will be chief economic advisor to Vice President Biden. The report suggests the package President-elect Obama has sketched out would create three to four million new jobs by the end of 2010.

United--But For How Long?
January 09, 2009

The last time most of us saw Bob Dole talking about health care was 1994, when he was burying the Clinton health care plan on behalf of his fellow Republican Senators. On Thursday, Dole came back to the Senate and back to the health care debate. But this time his agenda was different. Dole was there to introduce Tom Daschle, whom President-Elect Barack Obama has tapped as his Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Daschle: Not Backing Off Health Care Strategy
January 09, 2009

TalkingPointsMemo is reporting that Tom Daschle yesterday holstered one of the Democrats' most potent political weapons, the Senate's budget reconciliation process, in the fight to pass health care reform. If true, it would be a major shift. The rules of reconciliation forbid filibusters, making it possible to pass legislation with just fifty votes. Democratic reform propopents, including not just Daschle but also Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, have for some time said they'd use reconciliation, if necessary, to enact health care reform.

Daschle Hearings: Not Just About Universal Coverage
January 08, 2009

Today the Senate is holding confirmation hearings for Tom Daschle, whom President-elect Obama has tapped to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. The focus is on Obama's plan to overhaul the health insurance system and make coveage available to everybody, an effort that Daschle--who has written a book on the subject--will spearhead. But that's not the only item on the agenda. Two of the first four questions Daschle has gotten are about the Food and Drug Administration, a perennial source of controversy.

Early Look At Obama's Speech: Government Is Good
January 08, 2009

Some of Barack Obama's recent comments have made progressive writers, myself included, a little nervous. Yesterday's suggestions that he intended to reform entitlements--i.e., Medicare and Social Security--only heightened that anxiety (although one adviser assured me Obama had "no secret plan" to gut Social Security). But it's important to put everything in context, which is why Obama's economic today may prove very important. The point of the speech is to introduce, formally, the economic stimulus package he and his advisors have been constructing.

Or Maybe We Should Just All Chill About The Stimulus
January 06, 2009

Having just posted two separate items expressing concern, although not outrage, over the way Obama's stimulus package is shaping up, I thought I should also point out two very smart arguments for why Obama's decision is not just politically necessary but also politically astute. One comes from my colleague Noam Scheiber, over at the Stump, who suggests that Obama has very cleverly called the Republican's bluff by including substantial tax breaks, the bulk of which will benefit lower- and middle-income people: If the GOP accepts, then great.

Baker: Is This Stimulus Big Enough?
January 06, 2009

Another expert I consulted yesterday was Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic Progress. Here's what he wrote me: The business tax cuts are presumably mostly political. The EITC -type cuts are progressive and will be spent, so they are not bad. As you get higher up the income ladder with the $500 tax cut for workers, the percentage spent is likely to drop. The track record on accelerated depreciation tax cuts and tax cuts for adding employees are not great. I will say that of all the business tax breaks, accelerated depreciation probably gives the best payback.

Aaron: Worry About The Public Works, Not The Tax Cuts
January 06, 2009

Barack Obama's decision to devote around 40 percent of his stimulus package to tax cuts has caused some consternation among those of us who think, dollar for dollar, infrastructure investments would do more to help the economy. But not everybody sees it that way. While I was canvassing the opinion of some experts yesterday, I got in touch with Henry Aaron, the economist from Brookings. He always has provocative things to say and yesterday was no exception. Here's what he wrote me: We should all be worrying less about tax cuts, and more about the content of the direct spending.

Obama Adviser: The Tax Cuts Make Sense
January 05, 2009

If the government wants to stimulate the economy, it's generally better off spending that money directly--on infrastructure projects, unrestricted aid to the states, or direct assistance to the financially needy--than it would be cutting taxes. That's led writers like me to question Obama's decision to include as much as $300 billion in tax cuts as part of a stimulus package that will ultimately be worth $675 to $775* total. But those doubts are misplaced, according to a senior economic adviser who just spoke with me.

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