After only 24 hours of negotiations, House and Senate leaders finalized a deal
on a $789 billion economic stimulus bill that Congress will likely vote
on by week’s end. Counter-intuitively, the final bill was smaller than
either chamber’s original draft. How will Illinois ...
After only 24 hours of negotiations, House and Senate leaders finalized a deal on a $789 billion economic stimulus bill that Congress will likely vote on by week’s end. Counter-intuitively, the final bill was smaller than either chamber’s original draft. How will Illinois fare? Not as well as we had hoped.
As expected, the compromise bill slashed $35 billion from a proposed state fiscal stabilization fund, $25 of which provided states with flexible federal assistance to pay down deficits. (As Capitol Fax notes, the “revenue sharing” program was worth about $1 billion dollars to Illinois.) The “moderates” in favor of slashing this crucial aid still have offered no actual economic justification for the decision; according to Sen. Snowe, $800 billion was a “fiscally responsible number,” so something had to to be cut to reach it. It’s almost as if they were using a dart board.
Also ousted was a $16 billion line item for school construction, which House Democrats fought hard to include. As we’ve noted, the caucus had a right to be frustrated, as the construction is both stimulative and valuable in the long-term.
Both the $15 billion home purchase tax credit and the $11 billion car purchase tax credit were dropped as well, but the $70 billion Alternative Minimum Tax “patch” favored by Republicans was salvaged. Sen. Tom Harkin sums up its stimulative value quite concisely:
“It’s about 9 percent of the whole bill,” he said, “which we were going to do later this year in a tax bill. Why is it in there? It has nothing to do with stimulus. It has nothing to do with recovery. This makes no sense whatsoever.”
That wasn’t good enough for House Republicans, who still don’t seem to understand that spending is by definition stimulus. Here’s Rep. Mark Kirk’s reaction to the compromise, via WBEZ:
KIRK: We are for a skinny stimulus. One that heavily backs a national program to expand highways, railroads and airports. But when you look in the current stimulus bill, it’s being spent on a number of programs that do not have any economic impacts.
It’s clear that the Republicans’ opposition to the stimulus is a purely political move. After all, a productive stimulus will be seen as a win for Obama and the Democrats. But these justifications aren’t connected to reality in any tangible way.
All in all, a bill will be passed today or tomorrow, which is a good thing. But as Tom Edsall notes this morning, the upper-middle class was the demographic whose interests were most protected. And the bill is clearly too small to address the need, as economists like Paul Krugman have consistently pointed out. Maybe this is the best Obama could do, given the intransigence of the GOP. But working people will suffer because of it.