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Or Maybe We Should Just All Chill About The Stimulus

Having just posted two separate items expressing concern, although not outrage, over the way Obama's stimulus package is shaping up, I thought I should also point out two very smart arguments for why Obama's decision is not just politically necessary but also politically astute.

One comes from my colleague Noam Scheiber, over at the Stump, who suggests that Obama has very cleverly called the Republican's bluff by including substantial tax breaks, the bulk of which will benefit lower- and middle-income people:

If the GOP accepts, then great. If they turn around and say, "Well, when we said tax cuts, we actually meant tax cuts for wealthy people, not for low- and middle-income people," then it becomes blindingly obvious that they weren't making a principled argument at all. They were trying to shake Obama down on behalf of their rich cronies.

The other argument comes from Ed Kilgore, who blogs at the Democratic Strategist and is far more savvy about politics than I am:  

If, as I've suggested, Obama's strategy is to pursue a form of "grassroots bipartisanship" that builds broad public support outside Washington, a stimulus package that includes significant and popular middle-class-oriented tax cuts--a centerpiece, lest we forget, of his presidential campaign--makes a lot of sense. It's Republican, independent, and Democratic constituencies outside Washington--already roiled by the special-interest orientation of earlier "bailout" or "stimulus" measures--that are most likely to welcome tax cuts that actually benefit them, assuming that will represent the bulk of the $300 billion we are talking about.

As for Team Obama's alleged interest in kowtowing to Mitch McConnell--again, there's no real evidence to suggest that they've made or are willing to make major concessions to get more than a handful of GOP conservatives (which is all they will need if Democrats stick together) on board. Best I can tell, the idea is to move the whole package through the budget reconciliation process, which facilitates big up-or-down votes rather than death-by-amendment. Crafting a package that's appealing to the public as big, immediate in impact, and focused on both broad national challenges and middle-class pocketbooks is most likely to create the Reagan-1981 dynamic of a coherent "bipartisan" piece of legislation that demands majority support outside and inside Congress. If that's true, then perhaps the "compromises" supposedly being made in the development of the package are the last, not the first.

--Jonathan Cohn