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The Elephant

In his otherwise excellent (to my inexpert eyes, at least) column on the stimulus today, the Times's David Leonhardt asks:

The most serious charge against the stimulus package is that it does not pack enough punch.... Why isn’t [Team Obama] pushing for a bigger package? Didn’t Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, recently say, “In a crisis of this magnitude, the most prudent course is the most forceful course.”

Leonhardt subsequently provides a few answers to his own question: It's hard to find ways to spend money of this magnitude as quickly as it needs to be spent; the bill is already large and getting larger; there will be other "prongs" to the administration's approach, including (in Larry Summers's words) "financial rescue, support for housing and global economic cooperation"; and this bill does not foreclose the possibility of further stimulus down the road. 

Yet in asking why the stimulus isn't bigger, Leonhardt somehow fails ever to mention the elephants in the living room. To quote the lead story in today's Washington Post:

Senate Democratic leaders conceded yesterday that they do not have the votes to pass the stimulus bill as currently written.... Moderate Republicans are trying to trim the bill by as much as $200 billion.... Despite warnings of dire consequences if Congress does not act boldly, Republicans have become resolute in their opposition to what they view as runaway and unnecessary spending in the legislation.... Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.)... supports an alternative drafted by  Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would cost $445 billion.

Now, there are legitimate questions regarding the size of the stimulus and any number of the items included in it. And obviously Leonhardt isn't writing a column about the political landscape. But you'd think that somewhere in the course of a 1,100-word piece bemoaning the fact that the stimulus bill isn't larger, he might be able to locate a culprit other than the Obama administration.

--Christopher Orr