Liberals have been clamoring for the President to push for job creation instead of deficit reduction for a long time, but have been rebuked by some of his political team and liberal elitists as being childish and not serious way before Drew Westin wrote an this op-ed piece in the NY Times. In the debt-ceiling debacle, their thinking was that Independents would side with the President and his willingness to negotiate a Grand Bargain over the unmoving and obstructionism of his political foes. Since there was no way the GOP would allow revenue increases in debt-ceiling talks the debate would expose conservative-teabirchers as being out of touch with reality. Now, part of that did happen. All the latest polling shows that the GOP and tea party are viewed much worse than the Democratic Party or Obama, but he was damaged as well. The president has now embarked on a three city bus tour in the mid west designed to connect with the working class.
"You've got to send a message to Washington that it's time for the games to stop, it's time to put country first," Obama said at a town hall-style meeting in Cannon Falls, Minn., the first stop of his tour through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
"If you can do the right thing, then folks in Washington have to do the right thing," the president said. "And if we do that, there is not a problem that we face that we cannot solve."
In this video he talked about extending the payroll tax break for the middle class, creating tax credits for companies that hire our returning veterans from war who are out of work and a type of WPA program that is known as the FAST program:
Its main components — extending federal unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut beyond their expiration at the end of this year — are vitally important, but their extension will only maintain the status quo. His idea for an infrastructure bank to finance large-scale building projects is also good, but would take time, and would not address the immediate need for jobs. Ditto his push for patent reform and trade agreements.
There are other ideas worth fighting for. Take, for example, Fix America’s Schools Today, or FAST, an idea that has been incorporated into a House proposal to be introduced this fall by Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). Public school buildings in the United States are on average over 40 years old and in need of an estimated $500 billion in repairs and upgrades. A $50 billion school renovation program would employ 500,000 workers (1.5 million construction workers are currently unemployed) and could be easily scaled up. The money could be disbursed through existing federal formulas to all 16,000 public school districts. The initial cost could be largely offset over 10 years by ending tax breaks for fossil fuels, as called for in Mr. Obama’s 2012 budget.
Many of us want him to be strong on this issue and fight for jobs no matter if Congress will act or not and I hope his political advisers feel the same way. There was a NY Times story that said his team was going to take a non confrontational approach which has not been working, but Greg Sargent dug a little deeper and found this.
Over the weekend, a stir broke out on the left when the Times reported that top Obama advisers David Plouffe and Richard Daley are privately advocating a non-confrontational approach towards the GOP on the economy.
For what it’s worth, I’ve asked for some clarification from the White House, and a senior administration official shed a bit more light on what Plouffe and Daley actually believe.
According to the official, who wanted anonymity because officials don’t want to be quoted on record discussing internal messaging deliberations, Plouffe and Daley both favor a confrontational rhetorical approach that will blame Republicans for opposing any and all job creation efforts for purely political reasons; both are leading internal boosters of a message that accuses Republicans of putting party before country.
To be sure, this still doesn’t tell us how ambitious Obama is willing to be in terms of proposing genuinely ambitious and bold job creation policies in order to draw that contrast with the GOP. And liberals are right to worry that the current range of options being entertained is far too limited. But if the Obama team is serious about drawing a sharp contrast — as the senior official insists is the case — we can at least hope that the policies will follow the rhetoric.
Trying to play the Independent game has shown awful results so far. Obama's approval rating has been dropping because Democratic support has been dropping and it's no secret why. A strong push for jobs is the right path to take without trying to be cute about it.