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February 9th, 2009
05:36 PM ET

Is this an economic stimulus or Viagra for special interests?

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

The question is whether we trust our government to put in place an economic program that truly provides a plan for growth and the beginning of a recovery or will just result in a short term benefit for those special interests that have controlled and paralyzed the government in the past.

Contrary to the warning label on Viagra, if this stimulus lasts less than four hours then you should call the doctor and most certainly your elected officials demanding their retirement.

The debate over the stimulus bill reflects a well deserved lack of confidence in both parties and their ability to govern beyond their narrow agendas. Last fall, the Bush Administration came to Congress demanding immediate action to address the very real credit crisis and the need to bailout the banking industry. Of course, if the Bush Administration could solve a crisis like they profited from one, then they might have left a different legacy. The profiteering from the Iraqi war and Hurricane Katrina relief was outmatched only by their ability to use the bailout legislation to rescue their friends on Wall Street.

The Democratic Congress produced the TARP legislation (referred to as the bailout) that, contrary to their stated intentions, allowed banks to horde our tax dollars and buy healthy financial institutions, instead of requiring that our tax dollars be used by the healthy banks to make loans and stabilize failing banks.

As we know all too well, the legislation did not meet the promise of capping bonuses on Wall Street. While Senator Claire McCaskill was calling Wall Street executives idiots on the floor of the Senate, many were wondering who the idiots were who wrote the TARP legislation in the first place. The greatest failure of this legislation was its failure to address the cause of this crisis: the bad mortgage loans and the foreclosure crisis that resulted from it. As Senator Christopher Dodd, the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, stated on November 22, 2008 "We have to comeback in January to stiffen the bill." Well, stiffening their spines might also be required.

As our country and the Congress wonder where our money went in the bank bailout, President Obama has to address the defining domestic issue of his Administration and our nation - putting Americans back to work. After a number of political setbacks in the cabinet confirmation process, the President has begun to regain control of the message.

While pundits debate the play by play, they are losing site of the game plan and the larger issues. The key legislative challenge is bridging the philosophical divide in Congress before addressing the partisan divisions. The new Democrat senators elected in 2006 and 2008 who put the Democrats in the majority are from conservative Republican states. Many are more conservative than the handful of Republican moderate senators. The unanimous support that President Obama received from the Democratic members on the stimulus package did not come easily. First of all, it is almost a psychological impossibility for Democrats to vote together. It should not be taken for granted. Let's remember that in the early January vote to release the additional $350 million in TARP funds, only 46 Democrats voted for it. It took then President-elect Obama personally calling a number of the new Democratic lawmakers and 6 Republican senators to deliver the 52 votes to get it done.

Although it would be welcomed, the issue is not whether President Obama receives strong Republican support. It is about convincing the nation that he is reaching out to the Republican members of Congress and that he is trying to change the climate in Washington. If the Republican leadership chooses to be an obstructionist party instead of an opposition party, they will have to explain that to the electorate.

As this tortured process advances, we can take pride in seeing our system of government work. Congress is operating as co-equal branch of government. Many members of Congress told me that the Republicans lost the Congress when they became regarded as a shadow of the Bush Administration. The Democratic leadership is determined to cooperate but not to be regarded as co-opted by the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration, in turn, has been respectful of the role of Congress and not making the mistake of appearing to bully or dictate to them. As this legislation eventually passes the Senate, moves on to the Conference Committee and then back to the Senate and House for final approval, there will be setbacks, tense negotiations, recriminations and finally a stimulus package. There will be more Republican votes for it than expected.

Even more important than that, there will be a sense that our elected officials are demonstrating leadership in a defining crisis of a generation.

Editor's Note: Robert Zimmerman has been a Democratic National Committee member since 2000. He is a partner at Zimmerman/Edelson Inc., a marketing, advertuising and public relations firm based in New York.
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Jackie

    This is a great post, as usual. I am always interested in hearing Zimmerman's views.

    February 10, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  2. Bruce

    I am not sure what the "simple solution ha ha" means, but I like the idea about paying us our money to pay down debt. It works for me and probably several million other folks – I'm sure. Anderson maybe you should start a movement in this direction given you have the outlet to reach millions? Maybe you could run for the Presidency if this idea takes off and works. Presidency – Probably not. You wouldn’t want to be known as a liar, cheat, manipulator of our resources. Thanks.

    February 10, 2009 at 6:46 am |
  3. DD

    The “Stimulus Package” is like a gi-normous turd working its way through a constipated partisan Congress. While three defecting Republican senators have attempted to throw some perfume into the bowl, when it does finally arrive this Democratic sh-t will certainly stink. I just hope there is no hyperinflation splash-back or nasty plumbing-clogging consequences for future generations.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:28 am |
  4. CindyR

    Oh and for the Republican's saying they were not asked for input from this Administration, Not true. Everyone that could go to Change.gov online, was asked to contribute and tell the President and Transition Team, their ideas and suggestions for turning around the economy. I am assuming they could of posted theirs on this site like I did, and million of other Americans did.

    February 10, 2009 at 12:39 am |
  5. CindyR

    You people do realize that this is real, and not a made for TV movie. If this stimulus and our Presidentand his Administration do not succeed with the help of us and Congress, neither will we or our country. Would therefore, seem to me we all would be cheering, praying, working hard so that this does work. Seems we would be pulling together and working together to see that it does succeed. Oh yeah, if there is suffering, drama and tragedy that would get your ratings up, yeah let it all fail... for better ratings.

    February 10, 2009 at 12:35 am |
  6. Catherine Nnoka

    I am deeply dissapointed and disgusted by this country.It appears that the Republicans have risen from the ashes of the lost election with only one purpose in mind: to obstruct and sabotage every attempt to fix this mess they created on their watch.The Republicans have decided, on what basis it is not clear, that they have a voice again – With which to say no to everything – out of sheer what – spite? vindictiveness? Mean spiritideness? Or can you just not stand the idea that we have an African American in the president's seat? Because hasn't it been 8 years of your Republican administration that have brought this country to its knees? And still you think you have the right to oppose and oppose and shout no, no, no to everything. The voices on your conservative TV and radio stations grow shriller and shriller as they spew their messages of hate and opposition to – well, to everything..Shame on every single one of you. I am ashamed of ths country and of the promise and hope that we are allowing to dribble through our fingers while we sit by and do nothing. Those who still care about change and hope and the possibility of a better future need to mobilize again around one simple message: Republicans and neocons – you got us into this mess.And as our President has pointed out repeatedly, we are facing a disaster created by your administration and its policies and if we do not pull together, we will not get through this.So if you refuse to help, at least do us a favor and shut up and step back so we can get on with the job of fixing our country.What can we do to get this message across?

    February 10, 2009 at 12:29 am |
  7. Pat M

    I think everyone here who has found fault with Obama's delivery and his Stimulus Plan tonight should jump up to the plate, take the reins, devise a fool proof plan that will keep your Nation from quickly spiraling downward into the depths of despair with no return if SOMETHING ISN'T DONE in the next week. Maybe the shock of hearing a Leader who has enough concern for his people to be open and forthright is too new a concept to digest!

    Ye of little Faith must be they who still have jobs with above middle class pay cheques and don't have to worry about their next house payment or where their next meal is coming from? How nice for you! Hope your Garden of Eden will continue to bear untainted apples and your Rose Bushes will remain thorn free while Judased Republicans prepare to rewrite the history of your past for their fear won't allow them to embrace a New Leader who pronounces a foreign Truth and asks them to follow him on the road less travelled with a promise of Brigher Tomorrows..

    February 10, 2009 at 12:24 am |
  8. Scott D. Shaw

    You have two RepubloFascists who are lock step, Ed Rollins and Alex Castellanes (they should be dressed in brown and Goose Stepping) to the same old song we just got rid of: Bush/McCain Bullshoi Ballet. They are so very afraid the 2006 & 2008 Democrat election success will succeed where Republicans totally failed with the big buck Corps, Mormon War Mongers Rove, Hadley, Hayden, Sampson, Asshcroft, etc. and Bernie Madoff’s of the world who screw everybody else out of their hard earned investment and retirement money. It is doublespeak and bull! They are all together as a stalwart voting (not thinking) block and not budging as they want to screw things up for 2 years so they can then to try to win in 2010 when there is blood in the streets and pandemonium in search of the no-show 2nd coming . Repubicans are selfish, racist and arrogant know-it-alls. Aristocrats who pull the wool over the eyes of the low IQ Christo-Fascists who are NASCAR fans and sell them their same crap and make the same idiodic mistakes as Bush/Cheney and the Mother of Octuplets! Listen to Allen Velshi and the democrats not the Republofascists who want America to fail for two years so they can win in 2010 as the Saviors. What a crock!

    February 10, 2009 at 12:12 am |
  9. Scott Shaw

    You have two RepubloFascists who are lock step, Ed Rollins and Alex Castellanes (make that dressed in brown and Goose Stepping) to the same old song we just got rid of. Bush/McCain cronies. They are so very afraid the 2006 & 2008 Democrats will succeed where Republicans totally failed with the big buck Corps and Bernie Madoff’s of the world who screw everybody else out of their hard earned investment and retirement money. It is doublespeak and bull! They are all together as a stalwart block and not budging as they want to screw things up for 2 years so they can then to try to win in 2010 when there is blood in the streets and pandemonium in search of the no-show 2nd coming . Repubicans are selfish, racist and arrogant know-it-alls. Aristocrats who pull the wool over the eyes of the dumb Christo-Fascists who are NASCAR fans and sell them their crap and make the same idiodic mistakes as the Mother of Octuplets! Listen to Allen Velshi and the democrats not the Republofascists who want America to fail for two years so they can win in 2010.

    February 9, 2009 at 11:59 pm |
  10. Mike -Flordia

    I love how we are told we are in an urgent crisis and that we need to pass this porkstuffed bill when alot of this legislation will not even take effect for a couple years. At least the republicans are standing up for what they believe in. If they are wrong its on them but if they are right its on the taxpayer

    February 9, 2009 at 9:44 pm |
  11. Amy

    The stimulus needs to be passed, the American people want to go to work. If Congress doesn't change this package into something completely different than what it is intended to be then it will be a good thing.

    February 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  12. Jasmine-Spokane,WA

    It's interesting to me that there is such worry about the stimulus package as if it won't even be voted on. But what concerns me is how can anyone not be confused as to what is actually in the plan detail by detail. it's as though I don't even know what this package is supposed to be. i would love it if the government would define the package, I'm not going home and watching C-Span, too boring for long-term watching.

    February 9, 2009 at 9:21 pm |
  13. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    This Stimulous Package will most certainly stabilize and start the process of recovery short term. To make any of this lasting we simply must re-create our Manufacturing Infrastructure tpo create good HIGH PAYING Middle American Jobs. WE simply must begin closing the doors on the use of Low Income Slave Labor in COMMUNIST China and SOCIALIST India just so that a very few here can make record profits while REDISTRIBUTING American Middle Class Income and jobs overseas.

    February 9, 2009 at 9:12 pm |
  14. Jen

    Any time the special interests get more "turned on" than the taxpayers, it is time to go back to the drawing board. If this stimulus bill doesn't protect taxpayers, the special interests will end up being losers, as well.

    February 9, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  15. Marisa in New York

    Zimmerman is cute, but what does he know about finances – he's a political strategist and commentator?....seriously, he does make some good points. And given his Democratic affiliation, I applaud him for being tough on the Democrats as well as the Republicans. For my money...and I have a lot less of it right now...both parties are a bit obstructionist. It's time to act...NOW. Nothing is going to be perfect, but how can the Republicans still think and fight for the same policies that messed everything up in the first place? Were they brain-dead during this last election?

    February 9, 2009 at 9:00 pm |
  16. jim Fallbrook CA

    It is good to hear that my good friend Bob Zimmerman finally admits our socialist president Barack Hussein Obama and the democratic congress are corrupt. I am glad to see he acknowledges that the stimulus package is more lik viagra for democrats special interests. Now the bad part, He criticizes George W. Bush for profiting on the Iraq war and Katrina. He never mentioned Obama's relationship with thugs that were his close personal friends like William Ayers terrorist. He also stated Bush was the worst president in history. I think Zimmerman needs a history lesson. Jimmy Carter Democrat was the worst president in history. I will leave this comment from left wing liberal democrat presidential candidate in 1968 Eugene Mc Carthy's opinion of Carter "Carter had quite simply abdicated the whole responsibility of the presidency while in office. He left the nation at the mercy of its enemies at home and abroad. He was quite simply the worst president we ever had." If Bob Zimmerman could possibly tell me that Carter was a better president than George W. Bush, (although that will never happen), I am eagerly waiting to have a good laugh

    February 9, 2009 at 8:53 pm |
  17. Eric From BC

    I don't believe that Obama can be true to himself nor his convictions if he becomes the bully that he is trying to eliminate. He is attempting to signal a new era of leadership highlighted by issues of importance to all people while yesterday's leaders are still trying to make it left issues or right issues. Pundits are pontificating on Obama being seen as weak or strong or too this or too that where Obama is really trying to elevate the conversation to one which supports the common Americain. Perhaps we all get the leaders we deserve and perhaps we don't deserve Obama....

    February 9, 2009 at 8:29 pm |
  18. Don

    If this stimulus package is full of earmarks and pork and truly cannot stimulate the economy, then it should fail regardless of the consequences.

    Then, we will only have the whole of Congress to blame for it's failure, for they are the ones who are mutilating this effort.

    February 9, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  19. DES

    I'm not as optimistic as Zimmerman is about the system working. I sure hope he's right.

    February 9, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  20. Annie Kate

    I guess that its been so long since we saw true leadership in Congress that we don't recognize it when it comes back. I haven't seen any yet; perhaps you could point out where some has occurred.

    February 9, 2009 at 7:39 pm |
  21. Michelle White of Austin Texas

    Neither, This is plain and simple help for the America people. What ever you want to call it at this point doesn't matter. What is so wrong with bailing out the American People. Are we not worth it?

    February 9, 2009 at 7:37 pm |
  22. Timothy Gibson

    One can put a nicotine patch on any day of the week, but as long as you pick that pack up and take a smoke the patch does not work.

    There has been nothing in our recovery that one could call recovery outside of special interest and those who control congress with the pork and high prices tickets to protection by and through government, now on the backs of the taxpayers.

    February 9, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  23. BrainFade

    Before they pass this Bill, I have a solution.

    It's the 303 Million Dollar Bailout as opposed to the 800+ Billion bailout.

    We may as well give every American Citizen $1,000,000 tax free

    Problem solved. hahah

    Most people if they had 1 million in the bank. would pay off there houses/debts. and get people shopping again.

    I mean since we will be paying for it anyways, we may as well reap the reward.

    simple solution. hahah

    February 9, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  24. Fran Frank

    It definitely seems that the Republicans have chosen to be the obstructionist party. We had their strategies for the past 8 years and look at the mess we"re in now. Apparently they don't feel any responsibility for the mess, if this was a plot on a TV show it would seem ridiculous. Here's a four letter word the obstructionists should think about J-O-B-S! Keep blogging Zimmerman

    February 9, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  25. Larry

    I thought Robert Zimmerman was Bob Dylan?

    February 9, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  26. Sherman

    There is no doubt about the seriousness of our nations economic problems at this time. If the Democrats and Republicans don't stop spouting cliches at one another our problems will go from a boat with a leak to the Titanic! I've seen Zimmerman on CNN and give him credit for being an original t;hinker and standing up to even his own party.

    February 9, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  27. Nick Richards

    Right on, Zimmerman. Robert is the most astute commentator out there.

    February 9, 2009 at 6:30 pm |
  28. earle,florida

    If you consider "Butter for Guns", favoring the average working stiff in America as special interest,how about going after the approx. $350bn that went into the (profiteering) coffers of Halliburtin?

    February 9, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  29. Charles Jackson

    You know, you’ve got to give Obama credit for reaching out to the Republicans. He committed to changing the tone in DC and I think he's attempted to do that. It's now on the Rs to respond.

    February 9, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  30. Ilana

    Carrie Bradshaw couldn't have said it better.
    Maybe Viagra will help the men in congress at least think straight.

    February 9, 2009 at 6:06 pm |
  31. Sarah

    In the AC360 tradition, Zimmerman is "keeping them honest". I just hope this works out.

    February 9, 2009 at 6:04 pm |
  32. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    A single swallow does not make a summer. The responsibility that we place in the shoulders of President Obama is so great that he will need to be a Hercules to load. There is strength, determination and courage. Let's see even where he goes to bear. If the opposition does not want to cooperate, at least, the people must do their part, and should learn to live in an economic recession.

    February 9, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  33. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    The package will pass the Senate and this game, of the Conservatives, is for after say that don't participated this initiative if the end is unhappy. Sometimes the policy isn't anything honest.

    February 9, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  34. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    The crisis is already a disaster and the package of $ 900 billion dollars, in being approved by Congress is just more a palliative to the crisis America. There is no urgency to approve it, since it will not resolve immediately, the unemployment and much less the loss of home for the banks.

    February 9, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  35. Maria

    Debating this kind of bills might involve narrow agendas or hidden agendas and expect mixing apples and oranges and probably some pork Salad, but at the end Viva blue.

    February 9, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  36. xtina, chicago IL

    Doesn't matter whether you're in the Iowest income tax bracket or the highest; doesn't the Congress have enough of our paychecks already?!

    February 9, 2009 at 5:50 pm |