The jobs package President Obama presented to Congress last Thursday is a relatively balanced set of policy recommendations. He made it a point to highlight when parts of it had been pushed by Republicans in the past, and it was obvious that he was aiming a lot of the messaging at the American people at large, hoping they’d push their Representatives in Congress to act.
But we all know the situation in Washington. We know that there are people on the far left and far right who may well refuse to vote for anything that isn’t sufficiently in line with their pure ideological stances. This was how it played out, in the end, when the debt ceiling was raised – the more ideological extreme members of Congress and Senate voted against the bill, even though not passing it would have, with zero doubt, led to economic calamity.
We don’t have an impending economic calamity in front of us now. It’s possible, should a major shock to the system come along, but most economists seem to predict a drawn out recovery, taking years to get back to where employment numbers to look like they did before the recession. In fact, there are some major political incentives for Republicans to not act, both on ideological grounds, as well as strategic. If the economy recovers faster after this bill is passed, I’d bet my bottom dollar that Obama gets reelected.
They know this, and have shown they are more than willing to throw caution, and patriotism, to the wind for their cause. The same can be said of the far Left. Specifically, I’m talking about the ones that voted against the debt ceiling deal (as messed up and inadequate as it was). They were voting for a one third cut in things like Social Security and Medicare, massive layoffs in the federal government and inability to enforce public safety laws and regulations they’ve fought for years to put into place. They also seem more intent on blaming the right for every problem under the sun, and also see the possibility of a political windfall if the economy doesn’t get better and they can pin it on the Right.
While I certainly don’t agree with every single bit of the legislation, the broad strokes are about as balanced as you’re going to get. Short term, fairly well targeted, stimulus, coupled with long term budget trimming so it actually helps with debt in the long run is precisely the rough model you’d want to see in this situation. The president’s honesty that reforming Medicare is needed to keep it strong was a brave thing for a Democrat, and put plenty of Conservative red meat in there as well.
He’s trying to thread the needle, which is a pretty apt description of how much space there is for bipartisan action anymore. Only way I see it working is if he puts as much effort into it as he did the health care reforms. Hopefully he’ll see the writing on the wall, that the country needs this, and at the same time his second term may well ride on the success of this passing.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a former nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.