Monday, February 16, 2009

What You Get When You Don't Ask For Anything

The GOP is going nuts about two facets of the stimulus package.

First, quite naturally, they are condemning the bill as not stimulus but spending. This ancient canard is both refuted by most reputable economists and the predictable output from a group that sees tax cuts as the solution for everything.

Second - and far more telling - is this: GOP lawmakers are (accurately or not) condemning the spending in the stimulus because it will not help their constituents.

Most of us learned long ago that if you're not part of any given process then whatever input you might have had is not incorporated in the end result of that process. This is true of family, business and government: if you do not take a meaningful part in the process then you do not get your concerns addressed.

Somehow the GOP hasn't learned that particular lesson. It might have to do with all the Beltway reporting that insisted that the Obama team listen to the GOP when it came to drafting the legislation: the party leadership obviously thought that meant that they could still write the bill and the administration would rubber-stamp it as usual rather than actually provide a reasoned alternative to their demonstrably ineffective policies.

When, instead, the administration paid more attention to a more aggressive policy that actually involved the government spending money, the GOP collectively balked. Instead of working with the authors to ensure that the benefits accrued to their constituents as well as those of their Democratic colleagues, the GOP denounced the entire package and refused to cooperate. The near-universal GOP rejection of the resulting legislation as a whole translated into non-participation in the allocation of projects and funding for the people they represent.

In addition, infrastructure from the national perspective is created and maintained to provide for as many citizens as possible: there is arithmetic for cost/benefit in these proceedings. Providing for the common good as a whole frequently means that certain segments of society will not see meaningful benefit: that does not mean that such provision is not valuable.

Last, infrastructure of any kind isn't something that can be installed simultaneously across the nation: it has to start somewhere. Boehner's dismissal of the (mythical) Los-Angeles-to-Las-Vegas corridor is disingenuous for both the lack of that particular leg in the high speed rail proposal and for the ignorance of how such projects develop. Any practical rail link between Southern California and the Northeast would almost certainly include lines through Ohio - just perhaps not initially. Rail projects generally start from major hubs (Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta and New Orleans spring to mind) or from major terminus points (San Diego, Miami, Portland ME and Seattle) and expand outward from there. In either case Ohio falls slightly behind the key sites to begin the work.

Ignoring for a moment Boehner's ignorance of the project (Ohio has two corridors planned while the LA-LV line isn't in the current proposal), the idea that one can denounce a plan as unhelpful to one's own community after point-blank refusing to participate in the planning in order to rectify that is both dishonest and irresponsible. Democracy, whether direct or representative, is a participatory construct. If you don't participate, you don't obtain the results you want. If the GOP intends to continue its obstructionist behaviour it has no business damning the resultant legislation for not providing for voters whose interests they were ostensibly elected to protect.

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