Dems to Obama: Get cracking on jobs

This campaign strategy doesn’t many any sense at all to me. I don’t know what good appealing to the middle will do when so many Democratic voters are disgusted enough not to vote at all. We’re in the middle of economic devastation unknown in our lifetime, and we’d like to see our president show more concern about that than his own reelection:

Obama’s jobs agenda, which he plans to tout on his Midwestern tour, calls for $30 billion to rebuild roads, bridges and ports; improvements to the patent system to spur innovation; trade deals with a trio of countries to boost exports; a $40-billion extension of unemployment insurance benefits; and renewal of the current one-year reduction of the payroll tax at a cost of up $120 billion.

A range of economists and Democratic critics call those ideas inadequate.

Asked about Obama’s support for free-trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a center-left think tank, said, “I would think they would be embarrassed to mention it.”

“These are small countries, and we already have a lot of trade with them,” he added.

Obama’s policies “are just not big enough to make much of a difference,” said Robert Reich, who was Labor secretary under President Clinton.

Alternative ideas have been floating up from Democratic think tanks, elected officials and strategists: Peter R. Orszag, Obama’s former budget director, advocates tripling the size of the payroll tax break — essentially wiping out the payroll tax entirely — and keeping the rate low as long as unemployment remains high.

This is one of the stupider ideas I’ve seen. In addition to robbing Social Security by cutting those taxes, people aren’t going to spend that money on anything more than the increased price of food and gas. There won’t be any left over to stimulate the economy in any meaningful way.

Others are pressing Obama to take advantage of low interest rates and borrow money to underwrite a far larger public works program. Such a plan would spur enough long-term economic growth to pay off the extra debt, supporters argue.

Mark Zandi, an economist who has advised the Obama administration, suggests making it easier for homeowners to refinance mortgages at today’s extremely low rates. The idea would be to eliminate charges that currently make it too costly for some people to refinance. He also advises changing immigration policies so that foreign students with advanced degrees find it easier to stay in the U.S.

Still, “There’s no magic bullet here,” Zandi said.

White House aides counter that large-scale, costly ideas stand little chance of getting through the Republican-controlled House.

But it’s no sure bet that Congress will go along with smaller-scale ideas either. Republican leadership aides said the GOP was supportive of the trade deals and a patent overhaul, although both have stalled several times this year. Obama’s call for renewing the payroll tax cut has drawn fire from some Republicans, who argue it would worsen the deficit, and the GOP has also opposed his plan to extend unemployment insurance.

Pollster Stanley B. Greenberg, who polled for Clinton’s White House, said voters had little patience for political leaders who limited policy proposals to what the opposition would support. White House officials can “get trapped in ‘what can get through Congress’ and the constraints of that debate,” Greenberg said, recalling similar arguments in the Clinton years. “Voters want you to break out of that” and answer the question, “What are you battling for?” he said.

The complaints about Obama come not only from long-standing critics, but from some who have been supportive in the past.

One Democratic congressman who has defended Obama to fellow liberals said he told White House officials at a recent meeting that they seemed to have Stockholm syndrome — embracing the Republican view that deficit reduction should be a major national priority, in the manner of hostages who come to sympathize with their captors.

Obama “sat in the room with Republicans so long talking about deficit reduction that he seems to be parroting the same lines,” said the congressman, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings.

7 thoughts on “Dems to Obama: Get cracking on jobs

  1. if this was a movie, it would be a farce. A sad farce, but a farce.

    Susie, my dad says he might stay home in 2012. I’m pretty sure my mom will. These are people who used to be party delegates in NJ. My mom has an autographed photo of John Kerry from an event they went do in the 2004 campaign. today, they are disgusted and have practically given up. They have theirs -my dad did well from the 1980s through retirement and continues to make a very good salary as a part-time contract employee of the company, working mostly from home- and won’t need social security. they’re worried about the direction of the country for the sake of my siblings and me, and know that nothing they do will change anything.

  2. From my morning fishwrap, AP: “President Barack Obama launches a political counteroffensive this week…(the President says) ‘We’ve still got a long way to go to get to where we need to be. We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it’s going to take time to get out of it…'”

    That’s some hard-hitting counteroffensive right there. He keeps saying stuff like that and people are going to start laughing in his face. As I said here last night, I think his strategy is to hide in the residence until 2013.

  3. Commenting to the choir: They have to give money to the unemployed so that they can survive and have some money to spend (even though it will be basics and not discretionary). We are people who need money to spend.

  4. Patent reform, Beeches! That’ll fire ’em up!

    It’s a well known historical fact that “freedom from slow patent approval” almost made FDR’s “four freedoms” list, until “patent reform” was edged out by “want”.

    Well, I think that’s what happened.

    Anyway, I think we’re on to something big with this trade agreement involving South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. Big.


    If only they could have included Pago Pago, that would have nailed it for me…

  5. If it’s big ideas they want, and it isn’t because the wealthy puppeteers pulling his strings don’t want big ideas, they want cheap labor, I’ve been pushing one for 30 years. I’ve offered it to presidential and gubernatorial candidates and they all ignore it: an Energy Race like Kennedy’s Space Race. Challenge the country to develop clean, renewable resource energy and eliminate the dependence on petroleum within ten years. Then fund the initiative with money for schools and research. Get kids excited about the possibility of clean energy the way Kennedy captured children’s imaginations about space travel. Get them hyped on clean oceans teeming with fish and skies with lots of birds and an end to global warming or something that will get the school kids thinking of how to fix things. Get the adults hyped on cheap energy, no reason to get involved in middle eastern wars anymore, and full employment as the US becomes the world’s largest exporter of energy products. Get entrepeneurs excited about the possibility of challenging the big oil companies with new and exciting products that will bring down those giants and build new giants in their places.

    Won’t happen, though. Too many oil rich puppeteers in the game.

  6. This administration is already dead in the water. They are dead, but they just haven’t been buried yet. They are going to screw around and get Rick Perry elected president, or maybe even Michelle Bachmann.

  7. Merciless @ 2– The line about it took a long time to get us into this mess, and it will take a long time to get out of it was good for about the first 6-9 months of Obama’s administration.

    But he had done almost nothing to help people other than the wealthy and Big, Big Bidness, especially banksters. To be whining that it’s haaarrrrrd presidentin’ just makes me see red.

    He’s lost it.

    If he can get anything done between now and spring, it will be a miracle. And what he’s set up to be done is go after SocSec and Medicare. He got himself his lovely little Committee of the Twelve Caesars — it’s what he really wanted to accomplish.

    If they do their worst, he won’t need another term.

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