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John Nichols recommends a pre-election prodding

September 7, 2010 - Mike Maneval

It's clear the midterm elections are fast approaching - front-page stories in the Sun-Gazette examined trends favoring the Republican candidates, particularly in gubernatorial races. Democrats and fellow travelers are defending their record of the past two years - last week I briefly looked at Jim McDermott, a Democratic member of the U.S. House, and his defense of the health care reform act. Now, John Nichols of The Nation is assessing federal stimulus efforts.

Unlike McDermott, Nichols is not a member of the Democratic caucuses in either house; I don't believe he's registered as a Democrat and his journalism, while clearly advocating specific philosophies on public policy, still will judge the Democratic agenda without partiality.

And so, Nichols' assessment begins by observing the failures and shortcomings of stimulus efforts. Bailouts for the financial sector, Nichols argues, rewards the very capital pool that often requires beneficiaries to outsource jobs, undermining the stimulus' goals in job creation. Ditto, Nichols says, of Chrysler and General Motors, which in Nichols' words, "took more than $50 billion in bailout money and used it to shut factories in the U.S. and lay off tens of thousands."

Nichols defended the funds used for direct job-creation projects, but observes such projects accounted for less than half the stimulus bill. Nichols compares the tax policy shifts included in the other half to the supply-side tax cuts of the Bush administration as "proven losers" in stimulating economic growth.

Nichols has a prescription, and its one to which the Democrats may still want to listen, as the election is about two months away and the cable news channels project an "enthusiasm gap" in voter bases.

Nichols' advise is that President Obama "needs to do a lot more than advance cautious proposals. He must get in front of the debate and start talking about the benefits that come from investing in American job growth - as opposed to mumbling while the right screams about 'big government.' And congressional Democrats are going to need some prodding."


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