As the economy continues to stagger and stumble, the stimulus bill is heading to the Senate. The Republicans in the House voted against it (along with some Democrats). The Republicans are, for the most part, presenting their standard criticisms and alternatives. On the negative side, they have attempted to paint the bill as pork, socialism and classic liberal over-spending. On the positive side, there has been a proposal to cut taxes.
While it is tempting to dismiss the Republican comments as the usual tired rhetoric, they do make some points well worth considering. First, the bill can be seen as being stuffed with pork. Of course, “pork” is often a label applied to spending that one does not approve of. They do, however, raise a reasonable concern: the spending should be carefully assessed to make sure that it is being used properly.
Second, the bill can be seen as “somewhat” socialistic-in that it places the government in the roll of helping out private industry. But, the Republicans have also placed the government in the role of helping out private industry-so this “socialism” is nothing new. They do raise a reasonable general question about the proper role of the government in regards to private industry.
Third, there is considerable appeal in the notion of reducing taxes. In theory, if individual citizens have more money (in virtue of paying less taxes) they can spend more and thus help infuse cash back into the economy. This sort of approach would have the virtue of helping out citizens and business. After all, one might argue, why take money from people and give it to companies that have shown that they cannot handle money wisely? It would make more sense to let the people spend the money as they see fit. They might not spend it wisely, but at least it is their money to spend.
However, there are obvious concerns with such tax cuts. After all, the Bush administration was famous for its tax cuts and they certainly did not stave off the disaster. As such, there are reasonable grounds to doubt the efficacy of Republican tax cuts. Perhaps a different sort of tax cut could be effective-but that would require supporting evidence and argumentation (as opposed to the tired old Republican rhetoric).