Political Communication during the Stimulus Bill Debate
In times of economic uncertainty and national emergency, the government has the capacity to make decisions that it believes will aid the country in its time of need. Such a time of need occurred in 2009 when the country continued to face an existence of dire economic circumstances involving national cash-flow and jobs. In order to set economic recovery into motion, President Obama called for the passing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), otherwise regarded as the stimulus bill. While such a bill was considered pivotal by many government officials in order to get the country back on its feet, crucial differences in policy and bill structure could be viewed in assessing the opinions Democrats and Republicans brought to the floor in terms of the bill's passing. In understanding the basis of the bill itself, along with gauging the opinions of two noted leaders from each party, one can better assess the capacity of which political communication, the mass media, and public opinion have upon the passage of such bills, and more specifically the ARRA of 2009.
As previously noted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- or the stimulus -- is an economic package enacted by the United States Congress in February of 2009 and signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17, 2009. The bill was set in motion in order to combat the effects of the late-2000s recession. During this time, the United States suffered greatly from a severe and continuous economic problem that began in late 2007 and took a drastic and sharp downward turn in the fall of 2008. The economic landscape of the time saw unparalleled unemployment, drastic issues in the housing market, and an overall case of economic calamity. The stimulus bill was set into motion in order to both save and create jobs first and foremost. Second, the bill contained objectives to provide temporary relief programs for those impacted most by the recession and invest in infrastructure, education, health, and green energy (Bernstein and Romer, 2009, p.1). In the field of healthcare alone, the stimulus would launch significant funding for the research and coordination of policies and guidelines that would mandate health coverage and reimbursement for bills paid during the recession (Steinbrook, 2009, p. 1059). In the field of green technology, the ARRA would introduce spending and tax credits of $70 billion for clean-energy and transportation programs (Makower, Pernick and Wilder, 2009, p.18). The effects would be significant, and would aid more facets of the economy than the financial market.
The approximate cost of the stimulus package was labeled at $787 billion at the time of its passage, and it included direct spending in infrastructure, education, health, energy, federal tax incentives, and expansion of unemployment benefits and other social welfare provisions (Calmes, 2009, p.1). The bill was found to hold a significant basis in monetary policy, nominal interest rates and the rule-of-thumb behavior that has long been attributed to the new Keynesian model (Cogan, Cwik and Taylor, 2010, p. 281). The rationale for the stimulus bill was based on the Keynesian macroeconomic theory which argues that during recessions, the government should offset the decrease in private spending with an increase in public spending in order to save jobs and stop further economic deterioration (Espo, 2009, p.1).
Democratic Politician's Ideology and Arguments
Upon taking office in 2009, left reeling in the wake of the financial system's collapse, no Democrat was as pivotal in the passage of the stimulus bill as President Barack Obama. President Obama began his work toward a fiscal stimulus even before his swearing in, working side-by-side with many Democratic Congressional leaders in an effort to determine what the size and shape of his plan should be immediately upon taking his place within the White House.
His rationale was basic and direct: assist the American economy in a manner that wastes no further time in order to alter the situation he began his presidency dealing with. In pushing for the passage of his bill in public forums, Obama warned of dire and lasting consequences if Congress chose not to pump such unprecedented dollars into the economy, and his first speech post-election dealt solely with the mammoth spending proposal that was to follow (Obama, 2009, p.1). The passage of the stimulus would reverse the upward trend in inequality between the economy and the income scale, and Democrats heralded it as the savior the country needed (David and Leeper, 2011, p. 213). At this time, the president-elect noted that the recession "could linger for years," unless Congress aligned with his plans and passed the bill. He went on to note "I don't believe it's too late to change course, but it will be if we don't take dramatic action as soon as possible" during his speech delivered at George Mason University in Virginia (Obama, 2009, p.1). Obama's pitching of his bill to Congress and the American public was unrelenting, and he went on to speak on the topic consistently in the weeks up to his presidency and in the weeks that came soon afterward. He called directly for Congressional bipartisanship, noting that it was time to put good ideas ahead of the old ideological battles; a sense of common purpose above the same narrow partisanship; and insist that the first question each of us asks isn't "What's good for me?" But "What's good for the country my children will inherit?" (Obama, 2009, p.1). The bill, Obama argued, would set in motion an age of new financial structure in the country despite the collapse of past models (Strobel, 2009, p. 84).
Despite significant turmoil within Congress brought on from Republican
disagreement with the proposed plan, President Obama continued on with his plan to pass the stimulus while critiquing the GOP's economic policy. Despite Republican Congressional suggestions for modifications and addendums to the bill, the President continually held firm to his proposed plan. At a speech at the United States Energy Department, the President asserted that Republican ideologies on the topic were outdated and irrelevant in the case of the current economic situation, noting that in the last few days, we've [Congress] seen proposals arise from some in Congress that you [the public] may not have read but you'd be very familiar with, because you've been hearing them for the past 10 years, maybe longer (Obama, 2009, p.1).
He went on to note that Republican ideologies of the past were largely rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve many of the country's problems, including the economic situation of the time. Obama continued to cite Republican tendency to ignore economic challenges, citing that the government must not play a significant role. Democrats, on the other hand, had a fresh idea and a fresh ideology. The Republican presidency of George W. Bush and the eight years prior to Obama's taking office had left the country where it was, and it was now up to Democratic standards to fix it. Obama noted in the same Energy Department speech that the [Republican] ideas have been tested, and they have failed. Republican ideas had taken us from surpluses to an annual deficit of over a trillion dollars, and they've brought our economy to a halt (Obama, 2009, p.1). Now was the time to move forward, not back. Obama called for action.
Democratic ideology in terms of the stimulus bill was rooted directly in the facets of Keynesian economics, along with the notion that the initiatives taken by the previous Republican administration had not been effective in attempting to counter the impending crisis. Rather than counter the economic crisis at hand, George W. Bush and the Republican Party did little to make an effective mark on the path to economic recovery. Democrats now labored under the belief that small stimulus package and disjointed efforts were not only ineffective, but outdated. In order to move the country forward, the Democratic Party -- led by President Obama -- placed focus on large numbers that would truly make a difference as well as bipartisan efforts.
Republican Politician's Ideology and Arguments
Since the passage of the 2009 stimulus package, Republicans have largely labeled the bill a failure, despite economists' general consensus that it helped stave off deeper job losses and supported a modest recovery (NYT, 2011, p.1). Such opposition to the bill could be seen far before its eventual passage and into its planning stages, especially from Republican senator and Obama presidential challenger, John McCain. Despite his lacking significant power within the Senate, McCain -- fresh off the campaign trails -- levied significant power in terms of media attention and therefore in public opinion.
McCain became a pivotal player in lobbying against President Obama and the Democrats' bill by voicing Republican criticisms. McCain and Republicans argued that such a liberal spending bill would not solve the problem of the economic crisis, but only inflate the government, contributing further to the national…