David Brooks is worried that the new Obama administration is over-reaching. Christina Romer, the new head of the Council of Economic Advisors, concluded in an essay in 1994 that fiscal stimulus is largely ineffective. And yet the incoming administration is being launched with a gigantic fiscal stimulus. Can they do all this in a timely way?
The problem is overload. Four months ago, no one knew how to put together a stimulus package. Now Obama wants to use it to rush through instant special-ed programs and pre-Ks. Repairing the power grid means clearing complex regulatory hurdles. How is he going to do that in time to employ workers in May?
His staff will be searching for the White House restrooms, and they will have to make billion-dollar decisions by the hour. He is asking Congress to behave and submit in a way it never has. He has picked policies that are phenomenally hard to implement, let alone in weeks. The conventional advice for presidents is: focus your energies on a few big things. Obama just blew the doors off that one.
Maybe Obama can pull this off, but I have my worries. By this time next year, he’ll either be a great president or a broken one.
In his speech yesterday, Mr. Obama promised to do all this in the most transparent fashion and that there would be no pork in the bill. That is something that will have to be proven and my guess is that it will depend largely on your definition of pork. Let’s just say you can count me among the skeptical.