How will government claim that enormous stimulus is not mindless spending?
Santa Has to Bring a Reality Check
"Being Santa Claus is fun. Delivering the credit-card bills later is much less fun.
And so it will be for U.S. President-elect Barack Obama. He will get to play Santa Claus at the outset of his term, telling people they can spend hundreds of billions of dollars in the name of stimulus. Later, of course, he'll have to play Scrooge, telling the country that the bill has come due.
The challenge for the Obama team is making sure Americans in general, and Congress in particular, remember that both roles lie ahead for the new president. The task, in the words of one senior Obama aide, is to make sure that people don't think the model for stimulus spending in coming months is "backing in the Brink's truck and opening up the door."
More broadly, Mr. Obama's team needs to figure out whether there are steps it can take at the outset to build its credibility on fighting deficits in the long run, even as it accepts them in the short run. Such measures are possible and would help calm financial markets as red ink spreads.
If you listened closely to Mr. Obama over the weekend, you could hear him warning people that big spending to stimulate the economy -- and "big" now means a stimulus package something in the order of $500 billion by most estimates -- shouldn't mean mindless spending."