Oh, Noes! How Will Biden Sell This Wildly Popular Bill That Gives People Money?
And we're off to the horse races! The stimulus bill has just passed the House and has yet to be signed by President Joe Biden. But the intrepid reporters at Politico are already mourning the disastrous effect it will inevitably have on Democratic prospects in 2022. Sure, the bill is polling at 75 percent today, but according to the headline, "Biden's job is about to get harder."
The thing about the future, though, is that it hasn't happened yet. So how does Politico know that the country will either hate the bill or forget about it immediately? Well, the reporter asked some people about the Obama stimulus bill a few years back, and none of them remembered it fondly.
In 2012, my then-colleague Arthur Delaney and I asked a dozen stimulus recipients in the Tampa area (host of that year's GOP convention) how Obama's bill benefited them. Only one recalled receiving Recovery Act funding. In 2016, I found the same dynamic evident in Elkhart, Ind. — a town that Obama world held up as an emblem of the righteousness of their economic policies.
So statistics, much sample!
Plus, in 2016 some data scientists tried to quantify the effect of the 2009 Obama stimulus, and they found that it made Republicans a lot madder than it made Democrats happy.
Here's the abstract:
We examine the effect of a sudden influx of government spending, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) on support for the president's party. Using a difference‐in‐differences design, we find that stimulus spending had a modest positive effect on Democratic vote share but only in counties that were already Democratic leaning. In Republican counties, by contrast, government spending had a small, but significant negative effect on Democratic vote share. That is to say, ARRA polarized already partisan places. These results have important implications for the study of voter responsiveness to government spending and the measurement of the political effects of policy visibility.
And since we're not going to pay to read the entire study, let's just accept that it's probably correct (although we'd like to know the effect of gerrymandering on the sample). Students of the esoteric discipline of linear time will note, however, that 2016 came a full seven years after 2009, and the 2022 midterms are in about 19 months. So perhaps this isn't an ideal control group.
There's also the minor detail that the Obama stimulus barely broke 50 percent approval when it was passed. Which is 25 percent lower than the American Recovery Plan today. And while we're nitpicking, could it be that a whole bunch of shit is DIFFERENT now that we've lived through the unthinkable presidency, a goddamn pandemic, and welcomed tens of millions of voters who weren't old enough to cast their ballots for Obama either time?
And since Hope did not in fact triumph in 2012 when Democrats lost the House, perhaps President Experience will do better messaging this plan to the American public?
"There are a lot of people who use the term 'victory lap' in a derogatory way. I've already heard people saying that Biden is about to take a victory lap. Well, that's a lot of crap," said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told Politico. "One of the — if not the biggest — mistakes that Obama made, in my opinion, was getting the Recovery Act done and not explaining to people what he had done."
As noted by different Politico reporters who didn't get stuck with the Dems In Disarray beat today and got to write real news, the White House is planning an all-out blitz to sell the plan to the American public. You know, in case they manage to miss the checks in their mailboxes, vaccines in their arms, and the return of life as we knew it before March of 2020.
And as former Obama staffer Dan Pfeiffer wrote in his substack this week, Obama's efforts to sell his economic recovery package were drowned out by the absolutely shit economic news in 2009. It took more than a year for things to get back to something approaching normal in 2010. If we can all get vaccinated by summer and avoid an eviction crisis, 2021 will be noticeably better almost immediately.
Which is why the GOP is screaming bloody murder about anything and everything but the relief bill.
I know a lot of smart people are out there saying the GOP was so focused on Dr. Seuss that they couldn't mount effe… https://t.co/IzAqUxq9Yt— Erick Erickson (@Erick Erickson)1615302231.0
"I know a lot of smart people are out there saying the GOP was so focused on Dr. Seuss that they couldn't mount effective opposition to the COVID plan," tweeted Erick Erickson in case you are blocked. "I think they need to learn what I've started learning — more voters will remember Seuss when they vote than the COVID plan."
Let's just assume that he means the endless cycle of bullshit outrage rather than one story in particular — no one is going to remember the manufactured Mr. Potato Head controversy by April, much less November 2022. Heck, you probably barely remember Rudy Giuliani grabbing his junk in the Borat movie, and that was like fifteen minutes ago. Maybe Erick son of Erick is right in his deeply cynical take that the GOP can release a cloud of flaming catshit into the air and enough of the electorate will get high on the fumes that they won't remember being personally helped by the Democrats' bill.
Guess we'll find out, won't we. But win or lose, it was still the right thing to do. Even if it were bad politics, and the jury is still very much out on that one, it would still cut child poverty by 45 percent and boost the fortunes of tens of thousands of rural farmers. It will still help get schools back open and get shots into arms. It's what happens when you put people in charge of the government who believe that it's their job to help Americans, not just scream endless nonsense about the latest front in the rightwing culture war.
That's what people elected Democrats to do. That's what we're doing. And Americans will remember.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.