- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009

Republican critics have escalated their attacks on President Obama‘s $819 billion economic-stimulus plan, buoyed by economists’ skepticism and surveys showing public support for the plan to be thin, with a plurality of Americans thinking it would not help the economy.

The Senate was expected to act this week on a bill that passed the House without a single Republican vote as the nation’s unemployment rate continued to climb, the economy shrank by nearly 4 percent and the recession deepened.

A Rasmussen poll last week found that 42 percent of likely voters surveyed said they support the stimulus plan, with 39 percent opposed and 19 percent undecided. Two weeks ago, 45 percent gave their support and 34 percent were opposed. Both polls have a margin of error of three percentage points.

“Liberal voters overwhelmingly support the plan, while conservatives are strongly opposed,” Rasmussen said last week. Seventy-four percent of Democrats favored the bill, compared with just 18 percent of Republicans.

“However, support among unaffiliated voters has fallen. A week ago, unaffiliateds were evenly divided on the plan, with 37 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed. Now, 50 percent of unaffiliated voters oppose the plan, while only 27 percent favor it,” the polling organization said.

The findings were reinforced by an Opinion Dynamics poll of 900 registered voters for Fox News conducted last week that showed less that less than half of Americans feel the stimulus plan will bring positive results. Forty-five percent of respondents said Mr. Obama’s plans will help the economy, 29 percent said it would not make any difference and 18 percent said it would hurt the economy.

The same poll found that a majority of Americans have little faith in Congress to deal with the recession successfully.

“Just 27 percent of Americans think elected officials in Washington are part of the solution when it comes to improving the economy, while 61 percent think they are part of the problem,” the Fox poll said.

Mr. Obama’s stimulus plan already has been taking a beating from congressional Republicans and free-market economists.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that bill may not pass unless it focuses more on tax cuts and housing issues.

“I think it may be time … for the president to kind of get a hold of these Democrats in the Senate and the House, who have rather significant majorities, and shake them a little bit and say, ‘Look, let’s do this the right way,’ ” Mr. McConnell said. “I can’t believe that the president isn’t embarrassed about the products that have been produced so far.”

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday” the bill is losing support, and lawmakers may want to start fresh.

“When I say start from scratch, what I mean is that the basic approach of this bill, we believe, is wrong,” said Mr. Kyl, pointing to the bill’s planned tax rebate that even go to those who didn’t pay taxes and the distribution of too much money to the states.

Critics also say the infrastructure-spending approach that is at the core of the stimulus bill is a notoriously slow process to get money into the economy. The Congressional Budget Office and Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that only $170 billion of the $819 billion package will get spent in 2009 because of the usual delays getting the funds into the spending pipeline.

“Some of the longer-term projects proposed are quite worthy; some are not. Either way, they are not stimulus,” economist Larry Lindsey wrote in a column for the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

Democrats have defended the bill, pointing to the negative outlook for the nation’s economy.

“We cannot delay this,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, on “Fox News Sunday.” “We can’t engage in the old political rhetoric of saying, ‘Well, maybe it could be a little bit better here and a little bit better there.’ We’ve got to pull together.”

Sen. Claire McCaskell, Missouri Democrat, was more pointed in her criticism.

“Whether it is the National Endowment of the Arts or some of the [sexually transmitted disease treatment] funding or contraceptive funding, all we did was just tee up ammunition for the other side to tear this thing down,” she told the Huffingtonpost.com on Friday. “And I would like to think we are smarter than that. I’m hopeful on the Senate side we will be smarter than that.”

“There has been such a starvation diet for some of these programs that the appropriators got a little over-anxious in the House. They probably did some things they shouldn’t have,” she said.

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