Commentary: More infrastructure funds needed in stimulus plan

This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.

President Barack Obama got his mammoth stimulus proposal through the House, and the issue is now in front of the Senate. The House version is not a perfect bill, by any means, but it is a good start on the sort of boost the economy must have to get out of the most severe downturn since the Great Depression.

The House vote was along party lines; not a single Republican voted for the package, despite the considerable effort and serious concessions Obama made to win their support.

That may be a victory for ideological purity for the GOP, but it also runs the risk of marginalizing the minority party even more.

Already, some Democrats in Congress are calling on Obama to turn his back on the Republicans and push through legislation more palatable to the left, since the GOP has clearly signaled it won't support anything the majority Democrats want.

In particular, critics are calling for a pullback on the tax cuts that make up a large portion of the $819 billion stimulus package, which was thought to be a feature that would win some Republican support. That didn't work, but Obama may not be likely to accept smaller tax cuts. He made repeated promises during his campaign to push for middle-class tax relief, and that part of the stimulus plan wasn't entirely designed to secure GOP votes.

The problem with tax cuts is that, while welcome, they may not be much of an economic stimulus. Many economists argue that, under current circumstances, taxpayers are likely to save the money or use it to pay down debt, as most did last year with the Bush "stimulus" of tax rebates. For the individual, those courses are the most prudent, but they do little to boost spending and thus energize the economy.

The larger problem with the stimulus package, from our perspective, is that it doesn't contain enough money for infrastructure.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fresno Bee.