Two polls. Two graphs. Two views. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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Justin posted a Gallup poll showing that “Americans Approve of Obama’s Stimulus Work” further explaining that “…there is strong disapproval for the way Republicans are handling this situation.”

I certainly agree with the latter part, as I also strongly disapprove of how the Republicans are handling the situation. They seem all too willing to tinker at the fringes of this porker, rather than take a meat axe to it, or even better, work to kill it and start over. I particularly disapprove of the two or three Republican Senators that are willing to sacrifice principle for political expediency and enable this very bad bill to pass.

Rasmussen also released a poll that, in a similar spirit, we can entitle Americans Dubious about Obama’s Catastrophe Claims:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 44% of Americans agree with Obama and 41% do not.

There is a huge partisan divide on the question. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Democrats agree with the president’s insistence that failure to pass a bill now means catastrophe, while 64% of Republicans do not. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, 32% say Obama’s right, but 51% don’t agree (see crosstabs).

A plurality of women agree with the president while a plurality of men disagree. Those who earn less than $40,000 a year lean in Obama’s direction while those who earn $60,000 to $100,000 lean the other way. By a 47% to 40% margin, investors reject the notion that inaction will lead to catastrophe.

While the partisan divide on the question is predictable, it is particularly interesting that a large plurality of unaffiliated voters disagree with Obama that failing to pass the bill will have catastrophic consequences.

These numbers are likely to change. The president is on the campaign trail, and will be speaking to the nation tonight. We know how effective he is at both campaigning and speaking. If he wants to continue to use the fear card to sell this bill, it’ll work. He is playing to his strengths.

The economy is very bad. No doubt about it. But how does it really compare to past recessions? Justin posted a graph yesterday that was truly frightening. The graph was widely distributed across the blogosphere. You couldn’t design a graphic that would better serve to instill fear about the state of the economy. In fact, it was apparently designed to do just that, by truncating the left scale to emphasize the difference in the three compared recessions, using absolute unemployment numbers rather percentage of the workforce, and pretending that history began in 1990.

The following graph offers a somewhat broader perspective, comparing all recessions in the modern era (since 1946), expressed as an unemployment percentage.

H/T to Marginal Revolution for the graph.

The green bar is the current recession. There is no doubt, this is a bad one. About in the middle of pack as far as recessions go. The graphic points out an interesting aspect of recessions. They all end. And, surprisingly, they didn’t all need a trillion dollar stimulus bill from the Feds to end them. In fact, all of them combined up to now did not need a trillion dollar stimulus to end.

It is incumbent on our Federal government to help cushion the blow for those Americans devastated by this economic contraction. That includes unemployment extensions such as are in the current stimulus bill. If there are infrastructure projects that we know we really need, like upgrading the electric transmission backbone, and repairing dangerous bridges, why not do the projects now to cushion the recession impact? I’m on board. The operative word being “need”. But to spend a trillion dollars, just for the sake of spending a trillion dollars, because some economists and politicians have an unproven dogmatic ideological belief in Keynesian theory – or – more likely – using unproven Keynesian theory as an excuse to load up a porker the likes of which we have never seen before – strikes me as insane.

But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps tonight the President will sell me on the fear that the pending catastrophe is so great we really need to be stampeded into the largest spending bill in the history of the United States. That we really should not care that there is massive spending in this bill for projects that we do not need and will not actually stimulate the economy (translation of the bill is not perfect). That the impending crisis is so great, that we cannot afford to take the time to make sure our money is not wasted.

Perhaps he can convince me.

But he is going to have to scare the hell out of me.

UPDATED 14-March-10:
I linked this post from a future post, and noted the graphic had disappeared. Edited only to replace the graphic.