"I'm not a big fan of the current stimulus bill," Bob Bixby of the fiscal watchdog group the Concord Coalition told me. "They should spend more time worrying about where to spend the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money and how to spend TARP II. I think that's much more important for the future of the economy than what's in the stimulus bill."
Some of the tax cuts and spending make sense, Bixby noted, as they're directed at "people who could use help, people who are out of work, or stuff that will be pretty quickly injected into the economy." Put together a plan with the right tax cuts and quick spending, and the total "might add up to $400 billion," he said.
As for the billions that go to "green" buildings, federal hiring and other programs -- that money should be allocated during normal appropriations.
Two more points.
First, Obama was right to argue with those who think that "tax cuts alone will solve all our problems." For one thing, some tax cuts won't stimulate the economy. "You lose the revenue, but you lose the revenue to people who don't spend it," Stone noted. For another, they add to the deficit. And worse, then you've got the problem of shutting them off.
Second, if Obama really wants to create good jobs, the stimulus package should advocate opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas drilling, as Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., suggested. It wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime, would raise federal revenue, create good jobs and decrease American dependence on foreign oil.
The very fact that Obamadom hasn't even thought to push for more drilling tells you that maybe this stimulus package isn't about jobs. It's about politics.