We can no longer afford post-partisan happy talk. We need straight talk from the President about how government spending is critical, now, for economic relief and revival.

At this moment when our economy is cratering–New York Timescolumnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman writes, “It’s hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we’re in”–theGOP has offered nothing but cynical obstructionism and a lesson in thesevere limits of bipartisanship.

In the Senate, 36 out of 41 Republicans supported an amendment to stripthe recovery bill of all–that’s right all–spending in favor oftax cuts. House Republicans went on a retreat and rejoiced in theirunanimousrejection of the bill, while seeking motivation through Pattonmovie clips that celebrated “kick[ing] the hell out of (the enemy) allthe time.”

Meanwhile, President Obama has tried to play nice. But why play nicewhen those who clamor for “bipartisanship” are bringing millions closerto the economic abyss?

The President has lost time clinging to the notion that he cansell this stimulus through drinks, tea, meals, and a Super Bowl partywith Republicans who are hostile to the very notion that governmentaction can have a positive impact on people’s lives. We’retalking about Flat Earth thinkers here–GOPsters who take their marchingorders from Rush Limbaugh.

The result of President Obama’s good-faith effort is not a constructivecompromise in the Senate but a dangerously watered-down bill that offers$40 billion less aid to cash-strapped states; $20 billion less in schoolinfrastructure spending; and almost $100 billion more in tax cuts ofquestionable merit.

The budget shortfalls facing states are devastating at a moment whenstate unemployment rates are the highest in decades–gaps of $47 billion for2009, $84.3 in 2010, and a total shortfallthrough fiscal year 2011 of $350 billion, according to the Center onBudget and Policy Priorities. The Los Angeles Times reports that the House bill only covered 45 percent of theprojected state deficits as it was. Less aid means far more layoffs ofpublic employees at a time when the country is already hemorrhagingjobs, and cuts in needed programs like food stamps, unemployment aid, and health care at a time when these services are most needed. These cuts directly counter the recovery and stimulative impact that our political leaders are supposedlytrying to deliver.

What is needed now is not the President’s praise of “Democrats andRepublicans [who] came together in the Senate,” as Krugman notes, but for President Obama to stake a firm line for the sake of thecountry. While it’s true that the President has had no help from themainstream media–which featured Congressional Republicans slamming theplan on cable news networks by a two-to-one ratio over Democrats–President Obama still has thebully pulpit. Tonight he will hold a prime-time news conference. Healso held a town meeting in Elkhart, Indiana today where theunemployment rate has tripled in the last year to over 15 percent and the town of 53,000 has lost over 8,000jobs. Republican Governor Charlie Crist will introduce him at a Fort Myers townhall on Tuesday, and Republican Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Douglas (VT) and Jodi Rell (CT) joined Crist in speaking out infavor of the bill prior to the Senate version. (We need to see moreRepublican governors showing leadership and doing the same.)

It doesn’t matter whether this bill passes with 60 votes or 63 votes–especially if it’s a weak bill. President Obama needs to turn up theheat and dare the so-called Republican moderates like Senators OlympiaSnowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter to deny their constituentsresources at a time of historic need. The country can’t affordpost-partisan happy talk. It needs Obama’s straight talk about howgovernment spending is critical, now, for economic relief and revival.