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A nation held hostage by Ben Nelson’s folksy common sense

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I finally found time to read the symposium on Rosenblum’s On The Side of The Angels over at Jacob Levy’s blog. For the most part, very good stuff, but it’s hard not to enjoy criticism of the alleged virtues of non-partisanship in this historical moment when the breathtakingly vacuous and openly random (but Centrist! and independent!) policy priorities of Ben Nelson have stumbled into the center of our political process. Ezra Klein provides outrage and snark:

(Nelson): “Well, y’know, I don’t know where he’s from, but I’ll tell you, in Nebraska, $60 billion for education on top of $40 billion, that’s a pretty big commitment to education nationwide.”

And thus life imitates snark: Ben Nelson’s economic theory is based on a survey that Nelson has not conducted on Nebraskan attitudes towards education funding. Meanwhile, this is, as you’ll note, utterly non-responsive to the question at hand. Ben Nelson believes Nebraskans would think $100 billion a “pretty big commitment to education.” And maybe they would. He does not, however, say that they would think $150 billion an excessively big commitment to education. Nor, for that matter, does he suggest that they would think $80 billion an insufficient commitment to education. Confronted with Krugman’s argument that Nelson’s cuts did not display “any coherent economic argument,” Nelson offered no coherent argument — economic or otherwise — in response. And this is the guy deciding the size of the stimulus package. He’s cutting 500,000 jobs from the stimulus based on some fake poll he mentally conducted of Nebraskan preferences. He doesn’t even bother to justify his actions on the merits.

My fantasy is that all of the Collins/Nelson crap is systematically undone in conference, and leadership is able to scrounge up a few provisions to get the needed cloture votes elsewhere, but that’s probably not realistic. Hell, I’d settle for the Senate’s coalition of idiotic centrists being exposed as the frauds they are, but that’s probably asking too much as well, and as satisfying as it would be, it probably wouldn’t be worth the cost.

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