Coming on the heels of the Republican presidential candidates’ debate, President Obama’s “jobs bill” speech last night was the opening salvo in his 2012 campaign. It was vintage Obama. He was passionate. He was appealing. He made sense. And he was oh so reasonable. But it was pure politics.
As far as I can see, that proposal has no chance of acceptance by today’s Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
What it does is show Independent voters that the president is committed to Democratic principles but open to compromise, and that if elected with a working majority he has a common-sense plan to create jobs.
And progressives like me shouldn’t get excited about his offer to trim Medicare/Medicaid in exchange for Republican support on ending some of those tax giveaways to the rich. Since the bill is not going to pass, Medicare and Medicaid are safe for now.
The president made the point that America’s unemployed millions can’t wait 14 months for relief; they need help now.
But he must’ve known as he said it that the Republicans are not going to extend unemployment insurance benefits or the payroll tax break affecting workers making $106,800 a year or less. Those folks are not the Republicans’ constituency.
The people who pay the Republicans’ way make a lot more than that, and those are the ones President Obama is proposing to tax to help fund his jobs bill.
We heard the Republicans’ jobs plan on Wednesday night: pollute at will and drill, baby, drill. And if we needed reminding, Representative Jeff Landry of Louisiana brought a sign to the president’s speech that said drilling equals jobs (photo above). And the Republicans have made it abundantly clear that helping the unemployed, the poor, the old or the sick is the last thing they want to do.
We found out during the debt ceiling crisis that Republicans would rather torpedo the entire American economy than agree to any tax on corporations or the rich. The fat cats and their minions want less taxes . In fact, they would really like to have no taxes at all. Indeed, to some of them it would be nice if the entire federal government would just dry up and blow away.
To me – and I’m sure to you – this attitude makes no sense. And that’s the gulf the two parties cannot bridge.
Some of what President Obama is proposing looks to me like abject surrender, without any hope of compensation from the Republicans. All those tax cuts and tax credits to business, for example. If ever there was a band-aid solution to joblessness, that’s it. But I suppose some voters might welcome it as a bipartisan gesture.
The president’s advisers read the polls. They know the mainstream American voter wants the two major parties to get along and play nice with each other. So they put the tax giveaways in the speech to say, “Look how willing we are to compromise; see how unreasonable the Republicans are!”
So I’m not worried. As I said, this bill is campaign rhetoric, not a road map for the future.
Perhaps it will have the desired effect of awakening mainstream voters to the threat posed by the extremists who control the Republican Party. Perhaps America will elect a Democratic majority in the House and Senate that has the numbers and the will to fix the economy. And if that happens, the president’s speech will have contributed to it.
But it’s too bad that the jobless will have to suffer for 14 more months. It’s a long time to go hungry.