Economic Panic Makes GOP Bipartisan

All last year, Republicans obstructed and defeated virtually every progressive initiative the Democrats proposed, even going so far as to uphold Bush's veto of health insurance for 4 million uninsured children. But yesterday, the Republicans began to line up behind a progressive economic stimulus approach, and the only way to explain it is near panic.

To be sure, it helped greatly that the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke, appears to be an intelligent, non-ideological adult -- in stark contrast to the disingenuous ideologue he replaced. Bernanke, appearing before a House Budget Committee that has been considering possible elements of an economic stimulus plan, essentially endorsed the key components of the Democratic view:

(1) An economic stimulus plan was needed/worthwhile, and somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-150 billion is okay;

(2) It should be designed to get cash quickly into the hands of those most likely to spend it immediately to boost the economy; and

(3) It should be temporary and not have some permanent ("structural") adverse impact on the national debt.

The last two points appeared to deflate the hopes of Bush Republicans who had hoped to make a permanent extension of the Bush era tax cuts the center piece of the stimulus plan. Democrats would have strongly opposed that condition, and had they tried to get a stimulus plan through without them, we'd have been back to the obstruction and stalemate of last year.

Bernanke claimed he was taking no position on whether any of the Republicans' dream proposals should be pursued in the long run, but his insistence that the stimulus be immediate and focused on those who need cash now pretty much doomed the Republican hopes. Extending the Bush tax cuts would have no effect until 2010, when they are set to expire.

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