Dan Middleton’s Political Punditry, October 6

 

So Christie isn’t running and maybe now the media will talk about the American Jobs Act.

 

Since that isn’t likely, I will. To remind everyone, President Obama has crafted a 477 billion dollar stimulus bill called the American Jobs Act which will focus on the grinding unemployment problem in three ways. One, get back as many public sector jobs (mainly teachers, firefighters, and police) as possible. The loss of public sector jobs due to state budget cutting is a principle reason why the unemployment rate remains too high. Two, put employ thousands idle construction workers on immediately needed infrastructure improvements. Three, further cut taxes to small businesses, give tax incentives to companies who hire American workers, and extend the current payroll tax cut (about $1200-1400 a year for the average worker) which is due to expireJanuary 1st.

 

How to pay for it? When the Bush tax cuts expire in January, raise the tax rate on households earning more than $250,000, plus a surcharge on millionaires. The plan is elegantly designed, simple to describe, fair, and much-needed. Europe is now skirting ever closer to a banking collapse, a euro collapse, and a lapse into a far more serious recession than we are mired in. The threat of Europe’s significant problems will certainly affect the global economy very negatively, and the U.S. needs the American Jobs Act desperately as a bulwark against what appears to be Europe’s inevitable lapse–or even a dramatic plunge–into deep recession.

 

Will the Jobs Act bring instant warming sunshine across a land where winter has held on too long? No, but it certainly will intensify what has been a tepid thaw. Indeed, a survey of 34 economists agree that the bill will be effective in forestalling further slowing of growth as well as lowering unemployment, and thus–I very much hope–protecting us from getting too damaged by Europe’s economic challenges.

 

But, naturally, there is a problem: Congress, specifically the House of Representatives. The Republicans have been running the place for almost a year after getting elected with the cry, “Where are the jobs?” and then consciously, and with malice-aforethought, do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to move any legislation which addresses by far the most important thing on people’s minds, the economy. Working in tandem with Republicans in the Senate, House Republicans have adopted a strategy of almost complete inertia designed to infuriate the public and bring down the president. Credibility of the institution be damned, if it is choice between trying to put millions back to work or putting one man out of a job, it obvious what the Republicans want to achieve. And to a point, their nihilistic strategy of economic terrorism has been effective. Since the late summer, the president’s approval numbers have declined from the upper 40’s to about 42%, which is still quite respectable considering that the public is extremely frustrated and worried. Nonetheless, he has a tough fight ahead.

 

Which leads me back to the American Jobs Act. Republicans may think that ignoring President Obama’s call to pass the Jobs Act by the end of October will suit them politically. And that is mostly true with Republican voters, but certainly not among independents and Democrats. Polling has shown that since the introduction of the American Jobs Act, the public has steadily warmed to its various parts, and even Republicans approve of having the wealthy pay more to finance the bill. So, as today’s ABC News poll makes clear, while the president has been hurt by the economy and Republican intransigence, he is trusted far more than the GOP when it comes to caring about the economic concerns of the middle class, and people want the Jobs Act to be passed. And Congress has never in the history of modern polling been more unpopular. People want action on the economy, and as Ben Bernanke warned Congress, action is needed NOW. The GOP is not only being negligent and irresponsible, but one would think, politically stupid.

 

We shall see, though I sense an important shift in public opinion against the scare tactics Republicans have been so effective in deploying to achieve power (which is why the Occupy Wall Street movement’s rapid spread across the country is so interesting. I’ll have more on this next time). For the first time since Reaganomics took over the national discourse thirty years ago, the public isresoundingly rejecting the tired “class warfare!” trope Republicans use whenever the wealthy are asked to contribute more to the maintenance of the social compact we all benefit from. And guess who just pulled out the “class warfare” arrow from his musty trope quiver and aimed at students/nurses/etc. who are part of the Occupy Wall Street effort. Yes! You are right. Mitt Romney.

 

But enough about Mitt.

 

It is heartening how forcefully President Obama is promoting his Jobs Act. Yesterday, he went to Texas–yes, Governor Perry, Texas–with delightfully pointed rhetoric which is very welcome:

“Yesterday, the Republican Majority Leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now he won’t even let this jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives. This is what he said. Won’t even let it be debated. Won’t even give it a chance to be debated on the floor of the House of  Representatives.

“Think about that. I mean, what’s the problem? Do they not have the time? They just had a week off. Is it inconvenient?

“Look, I’d like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what exactly in this jobs bill does he not believe in. What exactly is he opposed to? Does he not believe in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses, or efforts to help our veterans?

“Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas and look Kim Russell in the eye and tell her why she doesn’t deserve to be back in the classroom doing what she loves, helping our kids. Come tell her students why they don’t deserve to have their teacher back. Come tell Dallas construction workers why they should be sitting idle instead of out there on the job. Tell small business owners and workers in this community why you’d rather defend tax breaks for folks who don’t need them — for millionaires — rather than tax cuts for middle-class families.

“And if you won’t do that, at least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where members of Congress stand. Put your cards on the table.”

And for good measure, he pointed an inconvenient truth about the Republican’s supposed Patron Saint, Ronald Reagan:

“The tax code, the way it’s structured, is not fair. And so what we’ve said is, let’s reform our tax code based on a very simple principle, and it will raise more money without hurting working families. Here’s the principle: Middle-class families, working families, should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires or billionaires. I don’t know how you argue against that; seems pretty straightforward to me. Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett.

“Now, when I point this out — it seems very logical to me, but when I point this out, some of the Republicans in Congress, they say, ‘Oh, you’re engaging in class warfare.’ Class warfare? Let me tell you something. Years ago, a great American had a different view. All right? I’m going to get the quote just so you know I’m not making this up. The Great American said that he thought it was ‘crazy’ that certain tax loopholes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary. All right?

 

“You know who this guy was? Wasn’t a Democrat. Wasn’t some crazy socialist. It was Ronald Reagan. It was Ronald Reagan. Last time I checked, Republicans all thought Reagan made some sense. So the next time you hear one of those Republicans in Congress accusing you of class warfare, you just tell them, I’m with Ronald Reagan.”

Well, I certainly wouldn’t agree that Ronald Reagan was a “great American”, but nonetheless an effective rebuttal to the class warfare trope/tripe.

Keep it up, Mr. President. If you do, I think you, and more importantly, the rest of us, will be ok.

 

 


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