Barack Obama seems to have ended his bipartisan outreach effort on the most important legislation of his presidency. To me at least, it seems to have gone something like this:
Barack Obama: Because no party has a monopoly on good ideas, I want to hear all suggestions. If someone has a better proposal, I’ll take it. My first goal is to get the economy moving again, and I think it’s critical that both parties come together on a plan to make that happen.
Republicans: We have some ideas.
BO: I want to hear them.
GOP: We think a permanent rate cut would be a great way to increase consumer confidence and put a little more money in people’s pockets. It enhances the confidence of wage earners about where the economy is headed, and helps restore consumer demand.
Obama: Hhmm… that’s an interesting idea! But I thought it over, and no.
GOP: OK, how about a small business tax credit? It would help the firms that are the lifeblood of the economy and get them hiring again. And it’s not as if this is a tax cut for the wealthy or anything. This is for small businesses.
Obama: Very interesting, but no. Besides, I’m worried about future deficits, and the legacy of debt we leave to our grandchildren. You know, with interest on the package, it already costs more than $1.1 trillion! My conscience tells me that more than $1.1 trillion would be morally reprehensible.
GOP: OK then…. Well, what if we end taxation of unemployment benefits — so at least if you’re out of a job, you don’t have to worry about paying taxes on your benefit down the road. That won’t even cost all that much in tax revenue.
Obama: No to that one.
GOP: OK. This is getting us nowhere. Tell you what. How about you push Congress to move the overall balance of the package back toward the 70/30 spending/tax cut split you originally asked for?
Obama: No, Nancy and Harry tell me it’s fine like it is.
GOP: Hhmm… we’re running out of ideas to compromise on. Oh — here’s one! Why don’t you reduce some of the spending overall, especially given your proper concern about the huge increase in the debt.
Obama: Well, I don’t think we can afford to make it any smaller. This is exactly right for getting the economy back in gear — as long as we bail out the automakers and pass TARP II and national health care as well.
GOP: But wait a minute. This bill is already $50 billion or so larger than your initial request. How can you say that it can’t be any smaller?
Obama: Well that was a few weeks ago. This is now. The problem is bigger now, so the bill needed to be bigger. In fact, it needs to be exactly as big as it is right now. Except for the contraceptives. It needs to be as big as it is now, minus the contraceptives. And the new grass for the mall. You cut away any more than that, and it’s Depression-city.
GOP: And that’s it? There’s not a single thing more than can be added or subtracted, or it will ruin the bill? Is that your idea of taking all the good ideas, regardless of where they come from? That’s your idea of building a bipartisan product?
Obama: Look, it sounds like you’re going down an unproductive line of questioning here, so let me just save you some time.