Republicans took to the Sunday morning news shows to express their "concern" about parts of the stimulus package presented by the Obama administration last week. House Minority Leader John Boehner declared that he would vote no "if it's the plan I see today"a pretty idle threat, since even if he takes his entire party with him, the Democrats still have nearly an 80-vote margin. In the Senate, however, two Republican votes are needed to create a filibuster-proof majority, which might at least slow the package down and could force some compromises.
There's good reason for the Republican resistance. While it makes numerous concessions to favored conservative approaches--lots of public-private partnerships that will allow the private sector to cash in, tax cuts for businesses and the middle class, and no immediate end to the Bush tax cuts (which will expire on their own in 2010)the $820 billion stimulus package also includes some dramatic increases in support for the nation's social welfare programs.
With this package, Obama begins the process of reversing cutbacks initiated by Reagan and carried forward by the two Bushes, with some help from Clinton's welfare "reform." There may still be plenty of holes, but with this plan, the new government confirms that has some responsibility for providing a safety net for its poor and disabled, its children and elderly. To see the magnitude of the shift, it is only necessary to glance at the last budget drawn up by President Bush, for fiscal year 2009: In the midst of the growing recession, it had yet more cuts to the social welfare system, reducing already inadequate health and feeding programs for the most vulnerable Americans.
Here are some of Obama's initiativesnot quite the New Deal, but quite a new deal compared to what we've grown used to over the past 30 years: