By Lynn Paris
I know that the supposedly adult thing to do in politics is to compromise. I’ve read many columnists and bloggers who have explained to me, almost to my satisfaction, that Obama has compromised brilliantly in order to get anything at all through congress and that without his uncanny ability to read the political landscape we’d be in far worse shape than we are now. And I get it; I really do. I understand that Obama didn’t really cave to the Republicans on the Bush tax cuts, for example. In order to get the tax cuts for ALL of us extended (because they weren’t just for the rich, they were for everyone suffering through this lousy economy) he played it smart. He knew that Republicans would extend the cuts anyway, only without some of the concessions like extended unemployment that he got for the poor and middle-class. And he knew they would have extended them forever rather than the two-year deal Obama got.
But no matter how much I realize that Obama is playing the game with intelligence, I fear that time is running out. Every time he reaches out to the Republicans for a bipartisan deal that is clearly never going to happen, he’s gambling that the American people will prefer a grown-up trying to work together with other grown-ups to a bunch of lying, bickering children whose only objective is to say no and score political points with their fanatical right-wing base.
I think he’s vastly overestimating the American people. And I think he’s in danger of losing the support of his base. If that happens, we could be in for a monumental disaster. We could get one of those lamebrains running for the Republican nomination, the ones who all said they wouldn’t accept ten dollars in cuts for one dollar in tax increases. I could easily fill ten pages with the lies and hypocrisies that have come out of the mouths of just Bachmann and Perry in the last two weeks, but that’s for another column.
This column is about economics and what I think President Obama needs to do.
It seems like every serious economist I read says that the answer to our current woes is the exact opposite of what the Republicans are scaring us (and obviously some Democrats) into believing. They are selling fiscal austerity – spending cuts and small government -- when what we need is more spending and stimulus to counteract the agonizingly slow private spending. The debacle over increasing the debt limit forced everyone to accept the lie that less government spending means more jobs. Where ARE those jobs? I hear Republicans saying that companies won’t part with their trillions in cash because they’re unsure about federal regulations or what taxes they might have to pay, or the effects of the new health care bill. That’s crap. Companies won’t expand and hire more workers because they don’t believe they’ll have customers for what they produce. And they’re right, because consumers won’t spend money on goods or services when they don’t have jobs, have low wage jobs or are living in fear of losing their jobs.
So, after Labor Day Obama needs to come at us with a HUGE jobs plan. Not a bunch of small, meaningless ideas designed to win over some Republicans, because that’s ridiculous, and we all know that by now. Nothing Obama proposes, no matter how rational or good for the country, will ever win over the Tea Party-House. It is not in the Tea Party’s best interest to do anything but oppose Obama. Instead, Obama should take advantage of Republican intransigence and resist the urge to compromise. If they’re going to oppose it anyway, then give them something big to oppose.
A HUGE jobs bill has to stimulate the economy enough to pull us out of this ugly recession. Who cares if it gives the Tea Party the opportunity to label Obama a big government liberal? They’ve labeled him a lot worse just for being president!
With a huge jobs bill, Obama could frame his entire 2012 campaign around the idea that he wants to put Americans back to work but the Republicans are thwarting him every step of the way. He could rise above the fray and stand up for the people.
I’m not saying for one moment that we don’t have a long-term debt problem. We do. But we are NOT broke now. Now, we can afford to fix what IS broken by promoting jobs and growth and tying that in with an ambitious long-term debt reduction package. Finally we’d have economics that makes sense: growth and expansion of the economy now to promote a more manageable debt in the future.
That would be sound economic policy now as well as a smart political move for Obama. Be the one who wants to get the long-term unemployed back to work now . . . even if it means stimulus money or a WPA-like government program. (And don’t forget, even while Perry was spewing forth his antipathy for the stimulus, he gobbled up those funds to help him get all those Texans their jobs!) Go for that infrastructure bank authorized to borrow $300 billion a year to repair and upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, school buildings, and water and sewer systems. Make low-interest loans to our cities and states so they don’t have to lay off teachers, fire fighters, police-officers or cut any more critical public services. Impose a “severance fee” on any large business that lays off an American worker and outsources the job abroad.
There are hundreds of ideas like the above (some compliments of Robert Reich) out there. So please, President Obama, Think Big. Go for it while you have the chance. Your job, and the future of our country, depend on it.