Bailout Blues. New cast, but same old story. / by Victor Currie

"I don't want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems. Nor does it constitute all of what we're going to have to do to turn our economy around. But today does mark the beginning of the end, the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs."

So said President Barack Obama in Denver after spending lots of federal dollars to move the presidential entourage from Washington, D.C. to Denver so he could sign the bailout bill with 10 ceremonial pens at a photo op. Hope he sent Al Gore a check for the carbon credits.

"In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed... We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous."

So said President George W. Bush on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, there was a banner for the sailors on board the that said "Mission Accomplished."  Despite the rhetoric about it, Bush never said that our mission was accomplished, but that banner that was there for the men and women who were about to be shipped home became a misattributed symbol that dogged him for the rest of his presidency.  Fortunately for Obama, he has much better PR people around him than did Bush.

One major difference is that the media likes Obama (pines for with lustful abandon might be more accurate), and of course, they hated Bush with even more passion.  Fortunately for Obama, his smooth vocal style gets him through any lack of substance (so far), where Bush's greatest failure overall was his ineptitude as a communicator.  No matter how many things Bush did right (and yes he did do a lot right, despite the well-reported fialures), he was never - with the possible exception of his first post-9/11 speech - able to articulate his vision clearly to the American people.

Obama, on the other hand, has Hope.  And that might just be enough for the moment as we go through some pretty hopeless times.

But this week's stimulus package, which was much more Reid/Pelosi than Obama, was a serious example of Hope Over Substance.  I'm not going to cry like so many other economic conservatives that Obama's team is ignoring their input.  What did they expect? His record in both the Illinois and US Senates was farther to the left than Kerry and Kennedy, so of course he's in favor of social welfare programs as a method to solve the crisis. You can't whine because someone acted exactly as his record would predict (though a few Obama voters I've spoken to over the last few days seem surprised because they were so taken with his star power that they forgot to look at his pre-campaign history).

My issue is that there is such a vast amount of legislation tacked onto this thing that should have been thoroughly vetted through the committee process that instead was slammed though.  I'm fine with building legitimate infrastructure.  I think national wireless high-speed broadband would be a great boon to the growth of small business and telecommuting.  

And I think we should throw a ton of money at the arts instead of trying to cut out a paltry $50 million in this bloated mess.  The arts stimulates the minds of the thinkers of the future.  We are going to need those thinkers, because we are going to be paying for this knee-jerk legislation for a long, long time.