President Biden knows exactly what happened to President Obama, and he’s not going to let it happen again.
President Barack Obama is now universally credited, even by Republicans, for pulling this country back from the precipice of an economic catastrophe that would have been nothing short of a second Great Depression. Passed in February 2009, just a month into Obama’s first term, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, or the “Recovery Act”) came in at a cost of $787 billion, readjusted to approximately $831 billion over the next few years. Its purpose was to stimulate an economy in free fall due, in part, to criminally lax safeguards “regulating” the U.S. and global financial industry. Containing billions toward infrastructure improvement, education, worker assistance, health care, and renewable energy initiatives among other provisions, the Recovery Act effectively ended the 2008-2009 recession bequeathed to Barack Obama by President George W. Bush.
Unless you happened to be among those who actively followed the progress of its specific programs, the only visible hints of the Recovery Act’s impact you may have seen were the many highway and bridge projects that suddenly appeared in your state and community, staffed with suddenly employed workers, using new equipment. You may have noticed a building project that suddenly came to life after being dormant for years. If you paid close attention to the news, you could see the unemployment levels gradually dropping, while the number of people falling into poverty reversed itself. You could see the foreclosures, firings, and evictions finally coming to a halt. And while the stimulus could and should have been larger, had Obama not been so intent on mollifying conservative Democratic senators and attempting to secure Republican cooperation by agreeing to substantial (and essentially pointless) tax cuts contained in the final package, it effectively mitigated an economic catastrophe.
President Obama believed that Americans would be savvy enough to realize just how critical this economic miracle was that the Democrats—with virtually no Republican assistance—had pulled off for the country. How many lives and careers were salvaged, and how many families’ futures were saved. In fact, he and his people were so confident of this that they thought it was unnecessary to go out in the field each and every day to talk up this accomplishment to the American people. As a result, in 2010, buoyed by a cynical, astro-turfed campaign perversely calling itself the “tea party” (which was funded by some of the very industries that the Recovery Act had saved from collapse), voters rewarded the Democrats by turning over the House of Representatives to the Republicans, an action that effectively stymied further progressive legislation for the remainder of Obama’s time in office.
Now a new Democratic president finds himself beset with a crisis of similar, if not greater historical magnitude. Joe Biden has already confirmed that this crisis warrants more than twice the stimulus provided by the 2009 Recovery Act: A total of $1.9 trillion is necessary to bring the nation back from the brink yet again. It’s an effort that is expected to have a similar lifesaving benefit for millions Americans and the U.S. economy as it digs us out from another Republican-made catastrophe.
But this time around, Democrats are not going to allow themselves to be “tea-partied” by a Republican Party that has not only abdicated its responsibility toward the American people, but has recently sunk to even further depths by advocating outright sedition.
As reported by Christopher Catalago and Natashi Korecki writing for POLITICO, the administration is prepared to put the benefits of the new COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus legislation, named the American Rescue Plan, front and center over and over again, preferably until Republicans collapse into a crouch and beg for mercy.
Democrats are plowing forward with plans to pass a massive Covid-19 relief package. And if Republicans don’t join them, they won’t forget it.
Already, there’s talk about midterm attack ads portraying Republicans as willing to slash taxes for the wealthy but too stingy to cut checks for people struggling during the deadly pandemic. And President Joe Biden’s aides and allies are vowing not to make the same mistakes as previous administrations going into the midterms elections. They are pulling together plans to ensure Americans know about every dollar delivered and job kept because of the bill they’re crafting. And there is confidence that the Covid-19 relief package will ultimately emerge not as a liability for Democrats, but as an election year battering ram.
Catalago and Korecki’s article is tinged with the slyly anti-Democratic headline that we should expect from POLITICO: “Inside Bidenworld’s plan to punish the GOP for opposing COVID relief.” And indeed, the new and faintly ominous specter of an aggressive “Bidenworld” (is that like Westworld?) probably does strike a sense of unfamiliarity into what has essentially always been a decidedly pro-Republican outlet. One can imagine how strange it must be to include this type of information:
The effort will include a giant outreach effort touting the package’s benefits as well as pledges from the Democratic House and Senate campaign arms to promote it in their own messaging. The Democratic National Committee, working with state parties across battlegrounds, is mobilizing to highlight Biden’s legislation as helping to save lives and create jobs, which officials expect to ramp up in the coming months.
The POLITICO authors allow that the Biden administration is acutely aware of how President Obama and the Democrats never received the credit they deserved for literally saving the country in 2009, or, similarly, for the Affordable Care Act, which was similarly demonized and smeared by Republicans.
Much like Republicans now refuse to come to the aid of the American people during the COVID-19 crisis, no Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the Recovery Act in 2009; at the time it garnered the support of only three Republican senators. Nevertheless, even in that partisan political environment, that Act, passed by a Democratic House and Senate, had within a few months begun to exert an unmistakably positive impact on the U.S. economy.
In a measure of just how different the effort will be this time around, the administration has already dispatched its formidable “Bidenworld” forces to institute what will amount to an all-out public relations blitz in support of the COVID-19 relief legislation, which is expected to pass through the budget reconciliation process next month.
Fourteen senior Biden administration officials have already sat for more than 100 national TV, radio and podcast interviews on the “rescue” plan alone, aides said, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appearing on several Sunday shows, communications director Kate Bedingfield on “The View,” and chief of staff Ron Klain rotating between evening TV networks. White House aides and outside allies have met with dozens of interest groups and community organizations while having some early success in convincing conservative governors, local officials and business groups to endorse the package — even if congressional Republicans are holding off.
In particular, these administration allies will be making a pointed effort to appear in rural and agricultural areas to explain the real-world effects of the rescue plan. The desired political impact, as explained by one White House official interviewed by POLITICO, will force “Republican lawmakers to look their constituents in the eyes and try to explain why they voted against giving them $1,400 checks, why they voted against reopening schools, and why they voted against speeding up vaccinations.” Helpfully, this will all be occurring as newly vaccinated Americans find their lives and travel and social options suddenly opening up.
It’s admittedly difficult for the human mind to grasp a figure approaching $2 trillion, let alone what can be accomplished by an administration that actually cares about the American people. Republicans in the U.S. Senate, aware of what is coming, have already promised to erect as many roadblocks as possible in an attempt to slow down the process. In fact, last week they introduced a deliberately obstructive series of pointless, losing amendments in a futile “vote-a-rama,” designed to gum up the works. So-called Republicans sought more time to negotiate, “warning that they view reconciliation as Democrats undercutting the bipartisan talks and contradictory to Biden’s pledge for unity.”
But it appears these Republicans really needn’t worry about “undercutting bipartisan talks.” There will be plenty of time for bipartisan “talking” about the Rescue Act—but this time, those talks will come after it’s been signed into law. It appears that the Biden administration has learned well from the mistakes of the past—specifically that the most important thing, when you’re spending that kind of money on the American people, is not to shy away from talking about it … over and over again.
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