Why we’re in the state we’re in

New Yorker piece on Larry Summers tells us that the initial figure for the stimulus bill was $1.2 trillion. As we know, the Obama Administration “negotiated with itself“:

And then [White House Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel said to me, “Geez, do you really think we can afford to come in with a package that big, isn’t it going to scare people?” I said, “Rahm, you will need that shock value so that people understand just how serious this problem is.” They wanted to hold it to less than $1 trillion. Then [Pennsylvania Senator Arlen] Specter and the two crown princesses from Maine [Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins] took it down to less than $800 billion.

The final figure was $778 billion. As Atrios says:

 The stimulus ‘debate’ was so absurd, with dirty fucking hippies saying what needed to happen and Very Serious People objecting not because of any actual reason, but on basic aesthetic grounds. “OOoh, that just sounds so big, can’t we make it smaller?”

What are the political consequences of the failure to get a big enough stimulus package through?  The Democratic National Committee is assuring Democrats that this November won’t be as bad as the 1994 elections. Not exactly a confidence-builder and not something that was inevitable. It’s tempting to blame Rahm Emanuel, of course, but someone hired him and someone keeps him on the job. The buck stops with the President.

Update: Vice President Joe Biden argues that the stimulus package was as big as it realistically could have been and that the Administration simply couldn’t have gotten any more. Not so sure about that. President Obama might have been able to exert some pressure by calling out Republican obstructionists and by making it clear to the American people just who was standing in the way of the economic health of America. Of course, that would have put the kibosh on any pretense of bipartisanship, as though that would have been any sort of loss!

Further update: Booman sez “Aw, quit yer bitchin’! The Obama team did the best they could under very por circumstances.” Booman makes some good points, but I’m still not convinced that’s all they could have done. 

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