‘The New New Deal’ Partly Redeems the Stimulus and Reminds Us How the Press Fumbled It
Mike Grunwald, a staff writer for Time and author of a book on the Everglades, could hardly have picked a better time for his latest book, an appraisal of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the stimulus. At first blush, one might think that few readers would want to revisit an enterprise that has been so roundly scorned by its Goldilocks critics—as too small by many liberals, and as too large and wasteful by all conservatives. But lo and behold, “The New New Deal” has caught on, a tribute to Grunwald’s deep reporting but also, surely, an indication of a sense among many Barack Obama supporters now rallying around him in the final months of a tough reelection fight that this law, like several of his other achievements, has gotten a raw deal and deserves a closer look.
The book’s careful reporting provides a useful check against many of the claims that will be surely made against the stimulus at the Republican convention this week (though Republicans have also already done their best to glean nuggets implicating Obama from the book’s 476 pages.) It reminds us just how determined was the Republican refusal to cooperate with Obama (a tack that is, to this day, being successfully spun as Obama’s having “gone it alone.”) It also provides some inconvenient (to the Tampa conventioneers) reminders of just how dire was the situation that gave rise to the law (guess, for one thing, who was pushing the largest stimulus package of all in early 2008 as the economy began to totter? Mitt Romney, a $250 billion package that, while weighted heavily toward tax cuts, was a sign that the businessman candidate was a firm believer in Keynesian jolts.)