Thursday, February 5, 2009

Opposition Strategy Debunked

Tuning into the Senate debate on the economic stimulus, you will hear some interesting debate strategies from the Repulican party. I want to talk about a few of them briefly.

The "IT'S A LOT OF MONEY!!!!" Strategy: One I've seen employed frequently is to not talk about the substance of the bill, but instead to focus on the dollar amount of spending. The Republicans on the floor of the Senate seem to want to write a sequel to the children's book "How Much is A Million." I just saw John Thune of South Dakota talking about how if we were to line the earth with $100 bills, it still would not be enough to cover the cost of the stimulus. This is complete silliness for a number of reasons. First, every reputable economist, liberal or conservative, agrees that we need a bold stimulus plan approaching one trillion dollars. Second, the amount of money in the bill represents 6% of GDP, which seems very reasonable when we're talking about providing a MAJOR jolt to the economy. Third, and most importantly, is that this argument has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the bill. Not all spending is the same. Republicans seem to be counting on the American people being scared off by a number, and losing focus of what the money is intended for.

The "STD/MALL RESODDING/REFURBISHING OF THE COMMERCE DEPARTMENT" Strategy: This strategy is a time-tested hallmark of the Republican party. They will find the craziest-sounding spending items in the bill and try to generalize the whole bill as a useless bunch of pork. You can't argue with this strategy, because it works. The Democrats will attach a miniscule amount of funding for something like the National Endowment of the Arts, and Republicans will pounce on it as evidence that the bill is chalked full of waste. The problem is that a lot of these things are not wasteful. Refurbishing federal buildings will create jobs, and will make the buildings more energy efficient, which will save money in the long run. This strategy is difficult to counter, especially when defending a bill of this magnitude. The best way to do counter it, as we've said before here at The Strike, is to ignore objections to small items and reiterate constantly how the bill will affect the lives of ordinary people.

The "DID YOU SEE THAT GALLUP POLL???" Strategy: The newest Republican talking point is a recent Gallup poll that showed only 37% of the public approves of the stimulus in its current form. What they don't mention is that 75% of the country wants some type of stimulus to pass. The Republicans will constantly repeat this data to show that they are on the side of the American people. Jim DeMint of South Carolina even called his Bush-heavy substitute amendment, "The American Option." Two ways to do away with this Frank Luntz-style branding and poll manipulation: Constantly remind people of the ultimate judgments of Republican philosophy:

-The current state of the economy.

-The 2008 election.

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