Brad DeLong’s Case for the Geithner Plan

What exactly it means to be “for” the Geithner Plan is, at this point, a bit hard to say since nobody seems to think it’s adequate to the problems we face, but among those who clearly think it’s desirable for the plan to go forward as one step among many, Brad DeLong has been the most convincing non-administration defender. Read this extended remix to get a clear since of what an optimistic take on the plan would be. And whether or not you find that convincing, I at least find this to be almost certainly right:

Q: But if even the Obama administration thinks this plan will accomplish only 3/4 of the job, why aren’t they doing more? Why not do the entire job?

A: Voinovich.

Q: Voinovich?


A: Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio is the sixtieth vote in the Senate — the one required to close off debate, avoid a filibuster and move to a vote on final passage of a bill. If the Obama administration wants to do anything that requires legislative action, it needs Voinovich and 59 other senators on board. The White House’s legislative tacticians appear to think that 60 senators are not on board — especially after last week’s AIG scandal. The Geithner Plan is something the administration can do on authority it already has. Doing more would require a congressional coalition that, at present, does not exist.

Another way of looking at it is that the administration has a real-but-limited ability to ask members to cast tough votes they don’t necessarily want to cast. Doing something they can do without an additional vote makes it more likely that they can ask congress to cast those tough votes on the budget and on health care rather than on bank bailouts.