More on Shuler and the Stimulus


Geographically speaking, you have to travel to Tennessee before you’ll find another Blue Dog who voted against the stimulus package. That would be Rep. Jim Cooper.

Jim Cooper was in the news today and yesterday for first claiming, and then denying, that he was encouraged by members of the White House staff to sound off against Nancy Pelosi’s handling of the bill in the House, and to criticize the bill in general terms. But that’s not what this post is about.

What interested me most about Cooper’s story was his stated reason for opposing the stimulus bill.

I told them I believed that the bill had too much long-term spending and didn’t meet the president’s goal of getting 75% of the money into the economy within 18 months.

That sounds a lot like Heath Shuler’s explanation for his “no” vote:

In my opinion, the legislation before the House today contained too much additional spending in areas that will not offer immediate economic stimulus.

However, we now know that the “too much . . . not immediate” argument is baloney.

First, notwithstanding Republicans’ (including that beloved tool Patrick McHenry) repeated claims that it’s going to be a long time before the money in this bill gets spent, the CBO has determined that two-thirds of the spending will come in the first 18 months after it is enacted.

Second, the Republicans have kindly itemized what they regard as objectionable spending in this bill and even they can only come up with $19 billion – about 2% – of the total. Now, $19 billion isn’t pocket change, but if we’re teetering on the edge of a major economic catastrophe, surely it’s better to err on the side of spending too much than too little. That seems to be the general Congressional approach to Iraq, after all.

So – ahem – Congressman Shuler: perhaps you, like Jim Cooper, wanted 75% of the spending done in the first 18 months, and have been disappointed that the House only managed 66%. And perhaps you, like the GOP, can only bring yourself to support, or at least tolerate, 98% of its provisions. Given that progressives in your district vote for you out of a sense that we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, why can’t you vote for this bill?

To me, it only seems fair. If you’re reading this, and you feel the same way, then give the congressman a call: (202) 225-6401, (800) 828-0498, and maybe even (828) 252-1651 (the number for his Asheville office). He may just have bad information about the bill.


  1. However, we now know that the “too much . . . not immediate” argument is baloney.

    baloney ….. yammy goodness made from pork 😉

  2. Gordon Smith says:

    Given that progressives in your district vote for you out of a sense that we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, why can’t you vote for this bill?

    Well said. Great post. Very informative.

    Calling now.

  3. already called a couple of days ago ….. not sure it actually makes a difference, does it?

  4. Jenny Bowen says:

    Despite his leanings, he still gets to introduce Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast:


  5. Tom Sullivan says:

    $19 billion? The Bush administration lost almost that much in cash during the early days of the Iraq occupation with hardly anyone noticing, much less calling the administration on the carpet for it.

    One thing you’ll notice in this debate is that many critics want to see more capital spending in the mix (infrastructure,etc.), but none of them offer a shopping list. Why not?

    If there were more solid, “shovel ready” projects out there, I suspect they’d already be in the bill.

    Put more non-shovel-ready projects in the package and critics will complain that they are “not stimulative” because they take too long to get money into the economy. Congress may have put in as many “good” projects as it could find and then padded it out with a grab bag of other items to ensure the spending was immediate enough and large enough to jump start the economy.

    Yes, the bill isn’t anywhere near perfect. Things this size never are. But the critics won’t be appeased whatever Congress passes. Anything that’s not a tax cut, is pork to Republicans. Where’s their alternative? I mean, to more tax cuts? Where’s their project list?

  6. Doug Gibson says:

    Another point that gets missed in this debate is how the government – or at least the Federal Reserve – has intervened repeatedly to rescue the economy, either by raising interest rates to avoid bubbles (though they seem to have missed the boat for the past several years) or by lowering rates to avoid slowdowns.

    Right now, though, as Paul Krugman has said again and again, the Federal Reserve can’t cut rates any further. We can’t rely on that kind of government intervention. So we’ve got to spend money. Maybe it isn’t everybody’s favorite way of stimulating the economy, but it’s all we’ve got.

  7. Tom Sullivan says:

    A bit like getting babies to eat their vegetables, isn’t it?

  8. Tom Buckner says:

    It’s more like getting vegetables to stop eating babies.