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The Pat Signal



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Arlen Specter needs a primary opponent:

I am supporting the economic stimulus package for one simple reason: The country cannot afford not to take action.

If this is the best its supporters can do, then this legislation definitely deserves to fail. Since last January, the country has taken all kinds of action — the $168 billion stimulus package, the Bear Stearns bailout, the nationalization of Fannie and Freddie, the HOPE for homeowners mortgage guarantees, the trillions of dollars in new Fed commitments, the $700 billion bailout, etc.

Conservatives of various stripes supported some of these actions and opposed others, but few argued at any point for the government to stand by and do nothing at all as the credit markets collapsed. The challenge has been to evaluate each government action with a clear head — no easy task with people like Specter screaming “We must DO SOMETHING!” right in our ears.

It is telling that Specter can barely muster a substantive argument on behalf of the legislation he supports. He regurgitates the figure — widely disputed — that the stimulus will create four million jobs. But the rest of the op-ed is devoted to defending the Senate bill on its political merits, to wit: “The moderates’ compromise, which faces a cloture vote today, is the only bill with a reasonable chance of passage in the Senate.”

Specter’s error can be traced back to the premise of his argument: Contrary to his assertion, the country can absolutely afford not to pass this bill. In fact, prudence demands that we abstain from such an orgy of questionable spending on top of all the other debt we have accumulated. Instead, let’s look at the trillions we have already committed to combating this crisis and figure out whether our approach is actually working. That is hardly a “do nothing” approach.



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