GOP Opposition to Democrats' Stimulus: Brilliant or Suicidal?

A number of experts support the GOP's opposition, but will the voters?

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Last night, not a single Republican in the House voted to support the President's $819 billion stimulus package. First thing this morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared on the CBS Early Show and said, "Republicans had their chance. The Republicans decided to oppose. That's their choice." The question is, was their choice a brilliant political decision or one more nail in the coffin of the GOP?

Some say this is a disastrous decision—political gamesmanship by the Republican leadership while constituents are suffering. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs predicted yesterday: "There will be people in districts all over the country that will wonder why, when there's a good bill to get the economy moving again, while we still seem to be playing political gotcha."

The Democrats sense there's blood in the water. Even before the vote took place last night, a coalition including left-leaning groups Americans United for Change, MoveOn.org, and several unions unveiled a new ad campaign targeting Republicans in the Senate—where the bill heads on Monday—urging them not to support the "failed policies of the past." Click here to view the television ads. The ads are set to run in Iowa, New Hampshire, Maine, and Alaska. In the next few days, Democrats will try to paint GOP opposition to the president's bill as political suicide.

On the other hand, 250 economists gave the Republicans some good cover with their open letter to the president disagreeing with his belief that there's a consensus that government action is needed—their letter ran as a full-page ad in a number of major newspapers. The meat of their argument: "It is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth." They seem to support same principles the House Republicans were espousing.

Harvard economist and President Reagan's former chief economic adviser Martin Feldstein took the point even further in today's Washington Post, spelling out the ways Senate Republicans can fix the "$800 Billion Mistake." If the goal is to increase consumer and business spending, he says, why not enact a temporary tax credit for those who purchase cars or other major items, or who spend money on home improvements? He has a number of other suggestions, many of which the Senate Republicans would be wise to follow. Clearly he doesn't think the House Republicans were crazy to oppose the package.

But the question is, will the voters think so?

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  • Read more about economic stimulus.