With no Republican support, the House passed the stimulus last night, promising to spend over $800 billion on pretty much everything you can think of (except condoms, that was taken out). Why does this remind us of a certain bill that was passed under the last administration, namely the USA PATRIOT Act.
- It was legislated in a time of crisis fueld largely by emotion and a desire to just act.
- It was a rush job.
- It doesn’t really address the fundamentals of the economic malaise.
- It has a name, The American Recovery and Re-Investment Act, that no America-loving citizen could oppose.
But most ominously, the bill’s supporters openly question the motives and thinking among opponents. We remember being outraged at the way PATRIOT Act opponents were described as being un-patriotic and un-American for daring to voice opposition. Now you get it from the other side.
Will Wilkinson, writing for The Week reminds us of the danger of setting aside cynicism:
In his inaugural address, Barack Obama scorned “cynics” who fail to grasp that “the old arguments do not apply” now, in a time of crisis. Obama’s presidency is living proof of hard-won progress in the struggle for racial equality, and his is a truly fresh voice in American politics. Yet it was politics as usual when the new President urged Americans to set aside cynicism, transcend their tired oppositions, and pull together behind his leadership.
“Trash the cynic” is a stock tactic of popular politicians, used to weaken remaining resistance to their agenda. The admiring public gets a warm sense of cohesive uplift while the loyal opposition is cast in an unflattering light: outmoded, small-spirited, irrelevant. Those who would argue are made to look petty—whether or not they have a good point. Obama is a master of this game. And George W. Bush was no slouch when he, too, had a gale of popular opinion at his back and a mandate to “do something” in a season of crisis.
“There are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans,” President Obama observed in his address. “Their memories are short,” he said, “for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.”
This is a tediously familiar and dangerous message.
All that being said, we never suffered another terrorist attack following the PATRIOT Act. Not that there’s necessarily a connection (we won’t ever know) but at least in that respect, stimulus supporters might like to see a parallel.