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Stimulus Battle, Obama Cabinet Top Week’s News

Columnists Mark Shields and David Brooks mull the political news of the week, including the battle in Congress over the stimulus bill and Sen. Judd Gregg's decision to drop his bid to become the Obama administration's commerce chief.

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    The analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Gentlemen, hello.

    Mark, this stimulus bill is just about to become law. What's your take?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    I think it's basically what the president wanted. I think it's a monstrous success for him. Do you want to know how I feel about the bill itself?




    OK. I think it was strengthened in the conference. I was a little concerned in the Senate.

    I mean, this is one of those instances, Judy, where elections really do count. The philosophy and approach of Barack Obama is in this bill, in the sense that, if you're going to have an economic assistance act in the country, you start with a simple premise, and that is: We get money to those who need it the most.

    And those — A, for the very simple economic principle that they're going to spend it; and, B, the very simple humanitarian principle, perhaps that should be first, that these are the ones who need it.

    These are the people who've been laid off. These are the people whose insurance is running out. These are the people who need food. And so, in that sense, I think it was strengthened when it came back to the House.


    And will it help the economy?


    I am hopeful it will help the economy. After listening to Margaret's interview with Christina Romer, I feel even better. I look forward to that Rooseveltian moment she spoke of.


    David, what's your take?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    We all do, though less positive. I'm glad Mark is happy. I don't know too many people happy with this bill. Most of my liberal friends think it's much too little. Some of the more very conservative people think it's just a big waste of money.

    I think it's a wasted opportunity. And I wish they had taken a bill and really done a sharp, short, shock, temporary, timely and targeted, as Larry Summers once said. And that would have been like a payroll tax going right to the lower middle class, giving them a lot of money right away.

    But, instead, they married some stimulus with a bunch of long-term stuff which will spend out very slowly, very diluted across dozens or, really, hundreds of programs, and I think it will have a very limited effect.

    And, you know, Christina Romer talked about the Rooseveltian moment. And that's the crucial variable here. What is public confidence? We spent $1.7 trillion last year, had no stimulative effect that I can tell because confidence is so low.

    And that's the thing none of the economists can really calculate; it doesn't fit into their models. So when they're projecting job projections, that's all based on a guess of how people feel. But if people are still scared about the future, then they're not going to — they're not going to invest. They're not going to risk. They're not going to spend.

    And so I'm — my regret is that they didn't really hit it hard, hit it temporary, and not shove in all these other programs.