In our nation's capital, real consensus happens as often as a noncreepy Rick Scott grin. Yet for the past couple of years, everyone in Washington, D.C., has agreed on this: President Obama's mammoth 2009 stimulus was kind of laughable.
Green-energy initiatives? Saving America from financial ruin? Hah!
Last week, though, that conversation turned on a dime. The reason? A new book from a writer based about as far, culturally speaking, from the Hill as possible: the heart of South Beach.
The New New Deal
The New New Deal, a 495-page tome from Miami-based Time magazine writer Michael Grunwald, argues that the stimulus not only saved us from the financial abyss but also revolutionized everything from energy policy to education.
The Daily Beast proclaimed the book will "change how you look at President Obama's stimulus forever." The Economist demanded that Republicans read it.
Grunwald says living in the Magic City was actually key to shaking up D.C.'s conventional wisdom.
"The groupthink is so powerful there," he says. "Just the idea of writing a book about the stimulus up in D.C. would be ridiculous, because everyone there knows what the stimulus is: It's a joke."
Grunwald moved to Florida to research his 2006 book, The Swamp, a history of the Everglades, and ended up staying after meeting his wife, Cristina, here. For a D.C. policy wonk, it wasn't the easiest transition.
"At first, it was kind of nice to be around people who weren't talking about Abu Ghraib all the time," he says. "After a while, it would be nice to find some people who at least know that Abu Ghraib isn't a fashion designer."
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When Obama passed his stimulus in January 2009, Grunwald decided it deserved deeper reporting. After all, the act was four times bigger than any passed by FDR.
Grunwald's narrative, built from interviews with more than 400 sources — from Joe Biden down — tells how the GOP united to oppose every piece of the bill, and highlights Florida's own idiocy, including Governor Scott's insane decision to turn down a high-speed rail system between Tampa and Orlando.
But it's not a partisan screed; the book presents evidence that, in a few decades, might make us see the stimulus as a watershed.
"It's going to be hard for anyone to look at this [book] and not say, "Look, this dude did a shitload of reporting,' " Grunwald says. "They may not like the conclusions I reach, but there are a lot of facts in here."