Driving Behind the Ambulance

Tue, 10 Feb 2009 10:37:04 +0000

We've all been there. Stuck in a highway traffic jam, we hear an ambulance approaching from behind. We do our best to squeeze over to make room, finally connecting the traffic jam to an accident up ahead that we can't quite see. We are grateful that we're not the ones needing the ambulance, and then grief turns to anger as we see that one jerk who decides that it is just fine to sneak into the wake of the ambulance to drive ahead of the rest of us.

This is how I view the legislators who have loaded up the stimulus bills moving their way through Congress with giveaways, whether useless projects or unnecessary tax cuts.

I thought the President acquitted himself quite well in his press conference last evening. He has done enough to try to bring Republicans into his coalition. It is clear that as a group, they have no constructive ideas about what to put in the bill. But they are not wrong that there are plenty of expenditures in the bills that have little to do with economic stimulus or the general welfare (as opposed to narrow interests).

So what should Obama do? He does have a staff of thousands at his disposal in the Economic Office of the President and the Cabinet departments. Put them to work flagging every piece of wasteful spending in the bills that head to conference. And then borrow a page from Senator McCain's campaign playbook -- make those who continue to argue for the wasteful spending famous. Label them the ones who drive behind the ambulance.