Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Destructive Criticism in Congress

Of the many issues that the United States confronts today, it is no exaggeration to say that the most pressing among them is the current economic recession. The statistics are not encouraging: The U.S. gross domestic product declined at a rate of 3.8 percent during the fourth quarter of 2008, the biggest drop experienced by the U.S. economy since 1982. All indicators suggest that there is good cause for pessimism.

It was against this background that Barack Obama, only days into his presidency, made the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – colloquially referred to as the “stimulus package” – the top priority on his legislative agenda and implored Congress to arrive at a bipartisan consensus on the bill and pass it as soon as possible.

The case for a stimulus is strongly supported by basic macroeconomics. At a time when monetary policy has exhausted itself and consumer spending, investment and exports have all declined, a massive influx of government spending is perhaps the only corrective available to policymakers at the moment.

In spite of this, the much-anticipated bipartisan cooperation has not materialized. If anything, the GOP has grown even more entrenched in its partisanship; indeed, it was something of a victory for party unity when not a single Republican representative voted for the House version of the bill.

In the Senate, where the balance between the two parties is more even and compromise is a necessity, there are signs that the stimulus will not pass with as much Republican support as the president would like.

The GOP is striving to make its opposition to the stimulus package appear as noble as possible; after all, it would not do to appear obstructionist in the face of both economic imperative and an extremely popular administration. Presenting themselves as the last line of defense against the dastardly interventionist state, the Republicans have delivered all of the right lines about excessive spending, tax cuts and the ballooning national debt.

Politicking is, of course, what happens on Capitol Hill – but this does not change the fact that conservative opposition to the stimulus package is not merely misguided, but also incredibly disingenuous.

Republican ire has been directed at numerous pet projects that legislators have attached to the bill, but these additions make up only a miniscule percentage of the $825 billion of proposed spending. The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal recently lambasted the inclusion of money for railways, child-care programs and global warming research in the stimulus package.

At a time when continued employment has become an uncertainty for many Americans, how can increased opportunities for work be turned away?

Republicans’ emphasis on tax cuts – that Holy Grail of fiscal conservatism – in place of government spending is also misplaced, because the cuts’ effectiveness is blunted by American consumers’ increased propensity to save rather than spend their money. Government expenditures, on the other hand, can enter the economy directly.

What’s more, the lawmakers that are currently crowing about the need for fiscal restraint are the same ones that cooperated with the Bush administration in overseeing the largest expansion in government spending since the 1970s – they helped spend a budget surplus and increase the national debt during a period of economic growth. Deficit spending during a recession is an unavoidable evil; deficit spending during economic expansion is negligent and fiscally irresponsible, and it deprives the government of the resources it needs to counter inevitable downturns in the business cycle.

That the Republicans should suddenly discover their collective conservative conscience is no justification for the drunken profligacy of their former ways, and it is even less of an excuse to extract a cheap political victory from opposing a government stimulus that is necessary for the recovery of our ailing economy.

alin Hu is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and a member of the Georgetown University College Democrats.

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