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Kai Ryssdal: Enough about this week because Monday is when everybody really gets back to work. President-elect Barack Obama is set to meet with Congressional leaders and obviously there will be lots to talk about, including an economic stimulus plan that could — the last we heard — come in at as much as $775 billion. That’s a figure from the Democrats who are going to control the package as it makes its way through the halls of power. Republicans are trying to trim the price tag, but their timing might be off as Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer explains from Washington.
Nancy Marshall Genzer: The Bush administration has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on everything from wars to the bailout package. Now, Republicans are trying to reclaim the mantle of fiscal conservatism. They say it’s time to curb deficit spending. But Wachovia senior economist Mark Vitner says, wrong move.
Mark Vitner: If you’re going to stand up and say hey wait a minute, I don’t think — I think we need to focus on the budget deficit now, there could be a lot of people screaming for your head because they want some assistance.
But Vitner says there is a role for a loyal government opposition that exposes wasteful spending. Jim Thurber teaches political science at American University. He says some waste is inevitable, especially since state, county, and city officials will have some say on how the money is spent.
Jim Thurber: There’s a lot of money being pushed into the system very rapidly, and if it is administered at the state level, along the way there’s likely to be some problems.
But Nigel Gault says that’s no reason not to go for a big stimulus package. You just need to try to minimize waste. Gault is chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. He says Obama will push middle class tax cuts and spending on infrastructure projects to create jobs. Gault says he should try for a big stimulus package to restore confidence.
Nigel Gault: Confidence is very important in influencing the willingness of consumers to spend, companies to maybe borrow money to buy equipment or to hire.
The House begins hearings on Obama’s ambitious plan this Wednesday.
In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.