Trouble in Paradise

It looks like not all Congressional Democrats are prepared to march in lockstep with Barack Obama into a brighter future:

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), who chairs the Financial Services subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises, said on C-SPAN that Democrats have “lost our way” and “shouldn’t be pressed by silly deadlines” of getting the bill into law by the Presidents Day recess.

Noting that Congress has taken many legislative steps over the past year to fix the economy, Kanjorski said, “Quite frankly, we’re doing this in small stages and small bites. We need to take our time. I guarantee we’re going to come back and we are going to have another stimulus, we’re going to have another bailout for Wall Street because we are not doing these things properly…”

“I think we’ve lost our way in a way … We shouldn’t be pressed by these silly deadlines like, you know, what makes [the] Presidents Day holiday so important for us to get out of town?”

He added, “In order to get it right, we have to spend time and analyze how much is going to hit the street as fast as it can hit the street and I don’t think we’ve done that. I think, to a large extent, many of the parts of the stimulus are programs that are going to take years and years and years to accomplish …”

Reading this piece as well as an item from his local press, it’s clear that Kanjorski believes that the current TARP is not enough to get banks lending again, and the stimulus package won’t get the economy moving, either. On the latter point, he’s right. No Keynesian plan will work. So it’s both smart policy and smart politics to step back for a few weeks and reconsider.

But so far the strategy from Obama and Congressional Democrats has been to race ahead with something big, even if there’s not really much reason to hope that it will work. So rather than wait a few weeks, look at the big picture, and try to put together a comprehensive approach to the current problems, Democrats are left defending a terrible bill, while they talk of new stimuli and new TARPs down the road.

Credit Kanjorski with recognizing that this panicked approach is not only unlikely to work, it’s likely to prompt voters to question whether Obama, Pelosi, and Reid should really be trusted with the car keys. This will frighten Congressional Democrat leaders, who don’t want to be put on the spot by people that they can’t slander as supporters of George Bush. But they ought to welcome the chance to consider whether they’re about cut their own throats politically.

After all, Kanjorski could as easily have said this a week ago. Instead he waited until it became clear that most Republicans were going to wash their hands of the mess, and let the Democrats own the issue. It turns out that pushing a costly and pointless bill is do-able for Democrats, but only if Republicans shoulder the load as well.