I am a bit surprised by the lesson offered in Publius' post, The Fool's Errand of Political Cover. Contrary to Publius, the lesson from the debates over the Democratic stimulus package is not that it's pointless to try to cooperate with the other side (i.e., folks like me). Rather, the lesson may well be that y'all need better Democratic leadership.
The current GOP line of attack is that the stimulus is a “failure.” Even if you think the stimulus is bad policy, this argument is ridiculous. Maybe the stimulus will ultimately fail, but it’s too early to say anything either way (though it has helped states). ...
The lesson is this — it doesn’t really matter what you do, the ultimate law is going to get attacked. So it needs to work. Good policy is the best defense.
Remember that the two main political attacks against the stimulus were (1) it’s too big; and (2) it’s too porky (Porkulous, honeybees, etc.). ...
And that brings us to today. If the stimulus fails, it will fail because it wasn’t big enough and didn’t get out fast enough.
So: It's wrong to attack the stimulus as "not working" because the stimulus isn't going to start working until next year. And it's a pity that the stimulus wasn't bigger on the front end: the stuff that would have entered the economy by now. If only someone had written an overlong, repetitive series of pieces arguing that the so-called "stimulus" was a stimulus for tomorrow's recession -- not today's -- and would do precious little in the short term.
Oh, wait: someone did! Me! A Stimulus for Tomorrow, Parts 1, 2, Hilzoy's response, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8! Those old posts criticize the Democratic leadership for designing a stimulus that was too small on the front end and too large on the back end. That is, Democrats in the House designed a stimulus that cost a lot, but wouldn't much impact the economy until after 2009. This back-loaded design wasn't the fault of "moderates" or Republicans; it was a structural flaw in the Democratic bill as introduced. Indeed, here's my very first post on the unadulterated Democratic bill -- before us grubby moderates and Republicans got our hands on it:
Government spending is a different story. Spending is the single largest portion of the bill when you consider the entire ten-year period at issue, 2009-2019. But spending has the smallest impact -- by far -- in the critical 2009 time period. ....
So: most of the government spending won't occur until after the recession is projected to end.
I and others argued for more money in the front-end of the stimulus -- the so-called "Part B" -- paid for by less spending in 2010-2019. Publius argued for more front-end spending as well. The Democratic leadership, however, didn't introduce a front-loaded stimulus. The Democratic leadership introduced a bill that was back-loaded. And here we are, with a stimulus that virtually everyone concedes hasn't worked yet (if it works at all).
That's not to say that Publius and I necessarily agreed on a solution. But we both diagnosed the same problem with the stimulus package, and it was a problem that was created by the Democratic leadership. Put the blame for that problem where it belongs: on the Democratic leadership.