Earlier, I commented on the immaturity or the republicans' actions, their silly ads, theatrics and a memo, calling Obama's first month a disappointment. They don't seem to have any grasp on the economic hole we're in.
But here is David Brooks, conservative columnist at the NYT, making a grown up point: Who really likes the stimulus? We have to trust government officials to spend it well and who knows if they will. If we knew there was one responsible shopper who would spend the money wisely, we wouldn't mind as much. And the people who were wise with their money are now being punished by the bad apples. Then he gets to the point -- the stimulus is harsh medicine. It's necessary, unfortunately:
These oscillations are the real moral hazard. Individual responsibility doesn’t mean much in an economy like this one. We all know people who have been laid off through no fault of their own. The responsible have been punished along with the profligate.
It makes sense for the government to intervene to try to reduce the oscillation. It makes sense for government to try to restore some communal order. And the sad reality is that in these circumstances government has to spend money on precisely those sectors that have been swinging most wildly — housing, finance, etc. It has to help stabilize people who have been idiots.
Actually executing this is a near-impossible task. Looking at the auto, housing and banking bailouts, we’re getting a sense of how the propeller heads around Obama operate. They try to put together programs that are bold, but without the huge interventions in the market implied by, say, nationalization. They’re balancing so many cross-pressures, they often come up with technocratic Rube Goldberg schemes that alter incentives in lots of medium and small ways. Some economists argue that the plans are too ineffectual, others that they are too opaque (estimates for the mortgage plan range from $75 billion to $275 billion and up). Personally, I hate the idea of 10 guys sitting around in the White House trying to redesign huge swaths of the U.S. economy on legal pads.
But at least they seem to be driven by a spirit of moderation and restraint. They seem to be trying to keep as many market structures in place as possible so things can return to normal relatively smoothly.
And they seem to understand the big thing. The nation’s economy is not just the sum of its individuals. It is an interwoven context that we all share. To stabilize that communal landscape, sometimes you have to shower money upon those who have been foolish or self-indulgent. The greedy idiots may be greedy idiots, but they are our countrymen. And at some level, we’re all in this together. If their lives don’t stabilize, then our lives don’t stabilize. Read the whole thing