The Plank

The Center Cannot Think

This post by Ross Douthat (as opposed to this atypically silly one) picking apart the centrists logic makes a great deal of sense:

if the GOP wants, say, $500 billion in tax cuts, the country clearly needs $400 billion in tax cuts - but not a penny more! And if the Democrats want $900 billion in stimulus, then the best possible policy outcome must be ... $800 billion in stimulus! To read this Arlen Specter op-ed, justifying both the stimulus package and the cuts the "gang of moderates" have attempted to impose, is to encounter a mind incapable of thinking about policy in any terms save these: Take what the party in power wants, subtract as much money as you can without infuriating them, vote yes, and declare victory.

Specter's op-ed is truly remarkable. He writes:

If a stimulus bill doesn't pass, there won't be any money for Title I education programs. The moderates' bill provides marginally less money for Title I than the House and Senate bills. But while it's less than supporters want, this proverbial half a loaf beats no loaf by a mile.

Right. But if Specter supported the whole loaf, then the whole loaf would probably be in the bill. It's not like there's some firm cap that forced the Senate to cut helpful spending programs. The cap is there because Specter decided to put it there, an act that flies in the face of the very economic theory that justifies the bill in the first place. He continues:

"In politics," John Kennedy used to say, "nobody gets everything, nobody gets nothing and everybody gets something." My colleagues and I have tried to balance the concerns of both left and right with the need to act quickly for the sake of our country. The moderates' compromise, which faces a cloture vote today, is the only bill with a reasonable chance of passage in the Senate.

Again, it's the only bill with a chance because Specter is holding it hostage. If he announced his support for the House bill, then the House bill would very likely pass. Does this man think we're idiots?

--Jonathan Chait

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