STIMULUS LESSONS

by Ryan Avent

The passage of an economic recovery package was never going to be a particularly clean or easy process. We have a brand new president and Congress, with a Republican minority prepared to sacrifice good policy for partisan victory. We have the worst economic crisis in decades, which appears to be gathering momentum at a frightening pace. And so we have the pressure to act boldly and very swiftly -- pressure that might have been reduced by the passage of a smaller, stop-gap stimulus bill last session, but of course legislators were preoccupied with the automakers at the time.

Under the circumstances, the proposed stimulus package isn't really that bad. It's of a good size, it combines immediate and sustained spending and tax cuts, and it seems quite passable. We could have done much worse.

But as the pre-passage post-mortems begin to roll out, it does seem clear that things might also have gone better. The potential of a transformative stimulus has not been fulfilled, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of many progressives. And I think we ought to learn a few lessons from the process.

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