But first . . .

LOVE WILL PREVAIL

Have you got three minutes, fifty-four seconds for this really nice song and video? It aims to prevent 18,000 marriages from being torn asunder.

FOR EXAMPLE

Ellen Degeneres’s. She seems so happy describing her wedding – why can’t Ken Starr just accept that she, like any American, has certain inalienable rights; among them, the pursuit of happiness?

DANTE AND THE NANNY TAX

Gus Johnson: “For Mr. Sullivan to conflate the tax problems of a few nominees with the systemic corruption, malfeasance and incompetence of the past eight years is disingenuous. You should remind your readers of what FDR said in one of his speeches where he quoted Dante. To wit: ‘Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the constant omission of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.’

Dick Theriault: “Of COURSE there is bias. That’s why we have parties in the first place. And as of yesterday when I received my new registration card, I am also a Democrat – after 60 years as a Republican. I probably would still be, if the Current Crop had not totally perverted the principles of the party.”

And now . . .

THE STIMULUS PACKAGE

This is getting serious, folks. If there are a few pieces of the stimulus package you particularly don’t like (preventing STD’s? reseeding the mall?), fine; let’s get rid of them (I think those are already out anyway). But we need to do this, do it big, and do it now.

We’ve thrown in tons of tax cuts – too many, in my view . . . a quarter-trillion-dollar nod to our friends on the right side of the aisle.

That part, they like.

It’s the spending they don’t like. It is criticized either for taking too long to kick in (but trust me: we’ll still need it when it finally does; and the mere anticipation of it has its own salutary effect). Or for being too much (but trust me: it’s going to prove to be not enough; there will be more).

Whatever its size or composition, the cost of the package – whether tax cuts or spending – will all be put on the National Credit Card.

So the critical thing: what are we borrowing the money for.

With the tax cuts, to the extent they are spent at all (most of it will be saved or used to pay down debt), they will largely be spent on things that don’t make us stronger over the long term: A TV made in Korea? A ski trip? More frequent restaurant meals or a new car? More clothes made in China? Apart from these boots (made in Brazil, reduced from $500 to $151*), do you really need more clothes?

Consumer spending will give a little temporary bump to the economy and maybe keep some sales clerks and busboys employed a little longer, but what will we have left to show for it? We will have simply borrowed a giant sum of money to spend-beyond-our-means yet a little longer and postpone even greater pain.

It’s not spending we should be borrowing for, it’s investing. If the money goes to weatherize homes and modernize our electric grid and build windmills and digitize health records and fund basic science and rebuild our aging schools and bridges (and dredge our waterways), we will have a more efficient, competitive, prosperous economy to show for it.

And the latter frame is one people can come to understand and have confidence in. Confidence trumps fear and leads to a virtuous cycle.

(As they can also understand and perhaps take some comfort in the portions of the bill designed to keep cops on the street, firefighters employed, and unemployment benefits extended.)

The former tax-cut/consumer-spending frame: “Don’t worry, we’re all going to go out to the mall and spend an extra $2,000 that Uncle Sam borrows to give us. We don’t have to change our behavior at all! We just have to accept more tax cuts and start spending again – that will get America back on track.”

The latter investing/infrastructure frame: “Don’t worry, we’re going to go through some tough times, yes, but with the clear goals of becoming energy independent – saving multiple trillions each decade we’d otherwise send overseas for oil and gas – and becoming leaders in and exporters of green technology . . . and rationalizing our healthcare delivery system to make it more efficient . . . and modernizing our infrastructure . . . and improving the competitiveness of our schools and their graduates . . . and maintaining our lead in higher education and basic research . . . and hang in there, because through that hard, smart effort America will get back on track.”

You can tell which frame sings more true to me. And no, not all the stuff of that second frame is in the current bill; but as I say, this is not going to be over any time soon. There will be more to come.

* And take another 20% off with your “FF20” promo code at checkout.

 

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