by Bill Kavanagh: There are few politicians who could have inspired the sort of hope that Barack Obama did coming into office, arriving in the wake of a near collapse of the American financial system a year ago. His inaugural address raised the nation's expectations. We hoped, we looked for change, we thought perhaps we'd crossed some significant barriers in the country's history. Mostly, we looked for leadership in a time of great anxiety.
Then came a search for consensus. For reasons that have more to do with Obama's nature than with empirical evidence, the new President looked for bipartisanship in addressing the nation's dire financial straits. He took a massive stimulus bill that most economists said would be the minimum necessary to get the country moving again and split it down the middle. Obama designated slightly more than half towards job creation, largely in infrastructure; the rest he saved for tax cuts, hoping the huge giveaway might bring Republicans and conservatives into the big stimulus tent he was creating. It didn't.
Instead, Republicans voted, to the last, against the stimulus plan and lambasted the President as a socialist. They sat on their hands and dared President Obama to pass his recovery plans without them. So, without pulling the $400 billion tax cut, he did. Without offering any plan of their own, the Republican Party had succeeded in paring off almost half of the stimulus funding towards tax relief. Obama had reached across the aisle and had been rejected, even while still siphoning off a huge percentage of the job creating effect of the stimulus bill.