In the Thursday, September 9, 2010, New York Times, Matt Bai, a political columnist, in an article entitled “In Obama Economic Stance, Risk of Confusion,” points out that President Obama made a significant, and probably mistaken, decision to turn the crafting of the 2009 stimulus legislation over to Congress. As Bai points out, the legislation could have achieved one or both of two goals: first, to create targeted, short-term economic stimulus; or second, to fund longer-term investments in infrastructure, technology, and human capital that would have provided the foundation for sustainable growth and competitiveness.
As Bai points out, while the legislation had some investments that accomplished each of the two goals, neither potential goal was adequately pursued with the stimulus legislation. Instead, as Bai stated, Congress essentially used the legislation to address the most vocal “demands of disparate constituencies.” There is a political consequence to this conclusion, which is that the majority of Americans now consider the stimulus legislation to have been a failure. Bai quotes Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff, “you should never let a serious crisis go to waste.” The crisis, which precipitated the passage of the legislation created an opportunity for fundamental societal change that was not taken.