Jonah Goldberg

I'm with the liberals on this one. They're fuming at the self-proclaimed "centrists" in the Senate who've taken it upon themselves to trim the stimulus bill at the edges.

Led by Republican Arlen Specter, the centrists have boldly cut (perhaps temporarily) $100 billion or so from the stimulus package, in the name of fiscal discipline. But, as liberal critics such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman rightly point out, they're cutting it to prove their "centrist mojo," not because they have real concern for public policy. If the bill had started out at $1 trillion, then $900 billion in porcine outlays would be deemed the "responsible" amount to spend.

For certain Beltway centrists, the highest principle is to prove that you are attached to no principle. Rather, your duty is to split the difference between the "ideologues." If one side says we need a 1,000-foot bridge to span a canyon, and the other side says we don't need a bridge at all, the centrists will fight for a bridge that goes 500 feet and no farther, then pat themselves on the back.

Yes, sometimes the middle position is the correct one. But there is no rule that says it must be.

Don't tell that to Specter, a living antonym for the word "Churchillian." In Sunday's Washington Post, he rationalized his trimmed-down bill by invoking John F. Kennedy, who said, "In politics, nobody gets everything, nobody gets nothing and everybody gets something."

Yogi Berra said it better: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Now, to be honest, I think President Obama's stimulus bill is a monstrosity, a bloated behemoth unleashed on America with staggering dishonesty. The centrist "improvements" are like throwing a new coat of paint on a condemned building.

It's being sold as an emergency stimulus to deal with an immediate problem -- the economic downturn -- despite being more like a welfare-state wish list festooned with fiscal nonsense. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid touts a whopping 58 percent of the bill as job-creating. No doubt that number is inflated. Even so, what's the argument for the other 42 percent?

For instance, why is an emergency spending bill weighted down with an authorization for $198 million in payments to Filipino World War II veterans, many of whom live in the Philippines? We owe them the money, but how does sending millions to Manila fend off the American "catastrophe" that Obama says is the price of inaction?

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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