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Denver Post Editorial: Political theater or poor policy?
September 14, 2010

Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov

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The Denver Post

Editorial:  Political theater or poor policy?

Whether or not President Obama's plan to spend $50 billion on transportation is a ploy to help fellow Dems, it's a lousy idea.

09/12/2010

Link to Editorial

President Barack Obama's latest plan to spur the economy back to health has rightly found a new group of detractors. This time, though, it's his fellow Democrats, many of whom are locked in tight races, who are saying no.

Their rush to say no makes us wonder if the president put forth a serious plan or if this latest blueprint to stimulate the economy, in part by spending $50 billion to rebuild roads, railways and airports, is more political theater than legitimate policy.

Several Colorado Democrats who supported past stimulus spending - and at much greater levels - are rejecting the president's proposal.

Michael Bennet, in a close Senate race with Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, says he won't support Obama's infrastructure plan unless the money comes from unspent stimulus money.

Rep. Betsy Markey, in a re-election fight with state Rep. Cory Gardner, agrees with Bennet. Rep. John Salazar, also in a tough re-election battle with state Rep. Scott Tipton, says he too is skeptical of new spending.

Even Diana DeGette, who's running against Republican Mike Fallon but is considered to be in a safe seat, told us she wouldn't support the infrastructure plan unless the money came from the Transportation Department or other existing revenue.

Obama would seek to avoid adding to the debt by financing the plan in part with higher levies on oil and gas companies - an obvious problem for Colorado politicians who want the support of those industries.

The obvious question is whether Obama is propping up a straw man for Democrats in tight races to knock down, and thereby look more serious about returning the nation to a path of fiscal discipline.

Besides, true believers in Keynesian economics - that is, infusing the economy with massive government spending in down economic times - argue that another stimulus bill would have to be much larger than what Obama is prescribing.

That said, Bennet and Co. are correct to stand against the plan.

Paying for the plan with new taxes in a down economy is not acceptable. And the country just can't take any more debt.

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an Obama cabinet member, said last week that our debt threatens our national security. "It undermines our capacity to act in our own interest, and it does constrain us where constraint may be undesirable. And it also sends a message of weakness internationally."

When Obama and Democrat- controlled Washington first proposed nearly $800 billion in deficit spending to try to spur the country out of recession, we decried the effort because it was more of a political wish list than an actual plan to get folks working. We had hoped to see far more spent on infrastructure, such as the plans Obama now touts.

But now, with a $13 trillion debt, we agree with Bennet that unless the president can pay for the plan with existing money, he should shelve it.

Meanwhile, we'll assume this is not all simply political theater because an anemic economy is no place to play partisan games.

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