By Lynn Paris
There is one thing concerning politics and the economy about which I am certain. The economy is in terrible shape, with unemployment numbers getting worse. And, it behooves the republicans to have it remain that way. A lousy economy destroys presidencies. So republicans, who MUST know that the only way to fix the economy is major job creation, continue to focus on everything BUT jobs.
They play games with the American middle class, pretending that the answers to our problems lie with more tax cuts for the wealthy, lower corporate taxes and putting an end to Medicare and Medicaid. The answers are to cut more programs that help the elderly, the sick, the disabled, the most vulnerable. They tell us that more tax cuts for corporations – the ones who are even now sitting on more than a trillion in cash – and less regulation, even as we struggle to recover from the lack of regulation on Wall Street that brought us to this horrific state in the first place, will get this economy going. (And by the way, if you ask republicans why corporations haven’t even started creating jobs, what with all those trillions at their disposal, they will tell you that the business climate is too uncertain for them to part with their money yet. How many trillions do they need before they are certain?)
So how does that create jobs? How will more cuts in domestic spending – when teachers and nurses and firemen are being laid off by the thousands and approximately 25 million people need full-time jobs – how will more cuts help them?
Still, that’s the only solution I have heard from republicans: cut taxes, slash domestic spending and deregulate. Doesn’t that sound like the same policies that got us in this mess? I am seriously begging any conservative republican to explain to me how doing more of the same will create jobs and get the economy going. No one has been able to explain it to me yet. No one has even tried.
Because they don’t have to try. All the republicans have to do is blame the lousy economy on Obama, accuse Obama of wanting to raise taxes (which is conservative-speak for allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to run out), point to our out-of-control deficit and say they will fix it. Despite the fact that they have yet to explain how, republicans know that people are desperate to have it all fixed. And unfortunately, the democrats aren’t taking advantage of this opportunity. They’re running scared, and have been for quite some time. The White House and the democrats in congress have abrogated their responsibilities in favor of compromising with the tea-partying right.
I understand that there aren’t a lot of solutions coming from the democrats right now, either. And I also understand that any solutions they might have are almost impossible to put out there without the conservatives screaming about more big government spending while threatening not to raise the debt ceiling. But that shouldn’t stop them from TRYING. That shouldn’t stop them from going on the record in favor of anything that creates jobs.
Because there really is only one solution, and that’s to stimulate the economy. And that stimulation, which has not miraculously occurred as a result of the wealthy spending more money or large corporations creating more jobs, will have to come from the federal government. We need more stimulus money because we settled for too little. We need affordable health care that isn’t frightened of private insurance and drug companies. We need much stronger mortgage relief and much tougher regulations. We need a tax system that cuts out tax havens and ludicrous subsidies to oil companies. And why would anyone even think of messing with the mortgage interest deduction – the one deduction millions of middle-class taxpayers depend on – when we’re cutting taxes for the richest one percent of the population? We need to do what Obama promised we’d do: invest in education, infrastructure and innovation.
I get angry when I hear Obama talk about the successes his administration has had. Not because they aren’t real; they are real. In fact, most experts say that the unemployment rate would have been far worse had it not been for Obama’s policies. No, I get angry because I know that the vast majority of people don’t want to hear about how anything is better when it isn’t any better for them. That means Obama has to stop talking about the jobs he has created and start talking about the jobs he is going to create, unless the republicans block him. And he needs to SAY that.
Obama needs to say that he understands that the vast majority of Americans, although concerned about the debt ceiling and the deficit, are way more concerned about unemployment. He has to force the republicans to either go along with job-creating bills or force them to admit that they’re more concerned with reducing the deficit than creating jobs. I’m still waiting for the compromising and the bowing to republican pressure to stop; I’m waiting for Obama and the democrats to get out on the court and play offense instead of defense.
The thing is, Obama gets criticized no matter what he does. If he plays it safe, the left blasts him. If he takes a principled stand, the right attacks. But it’s the American people he has to worry about in 2012. So he and his party need to take a firm stand for jobs, for reasonable regulations, for reducing the debt but not at the expense of the middle class, for extending the payroll tax cut for employers and employees, for spending on infrastructure projects that create jobs, for investing in education and innovation that create jobs, and against extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
It is only then that voters will have a clear choice about what direction they want to go in. #Creating jobs is trending; #reducing the deficit isn’t. Pay close attention, Barack.