Obama's New Jobs Bill: A Game Changer?
This past Thursday, before a joint session of the US Congress and in a primetime address to the American people, President Obama unveiled a much anticipated series of proposals presumably intended to give a badly battered, bruised and increasingly lethargic American economy the shot in the arm that he hoped would get millions of unemployed Americans back to work.
With “The American Jobs Act,” Mr. Obama advanced a stimulative cocktail of ideas that would infuse new funds to finance badly needed social works programs and shore-up many careworn state and local governments.
The package involves new proposals to slash payroll taxes for workers and small businesses, close tax loopholes for oil and gas companies, and tax hikes for private jet owners and hedge-fund managers. It also seeks to limit tax deductions and exemptions for top income earners--- individuals earning over $200,000 and families earning over $250,000.
Under the $447 billion bill, officially delivered to the US Congress on Monday, $49 billion will go toward a new round of extensions of unemployment benefits, state and local governments would receive $60 billion for transportation projects (rebuild tens of thousands of dilapidated roads and crumbling bridges), $35 billion for school, police and fire departments(to hire new teachers, law enforcement officials and firefighters), $30 billion to renovate public schools and community colleges, and an additional $15 billion to refurbish vacant and foreclosed homes or businesses.
On payroll taxes, President Obama wants to continue the current payroll tax cut, set to expire at the end of the year, that allows workers to pay 4.2% instead of the pre-existing 6.2% on the first $106, 800 of their wage earnings into Social Security. In addition, he wants to further lower employee contributions further to 3.1% and allow businesses to pay only half (3.1%) on their initial $5 million wage expenditures.
After repeatedly reiterating that his jobs bill would not “add a dime to the deficit” and reminding GOP lawmakers that the bulk of what was proposed had enjoyed bi-partisan support in the past, President Obama called upon American people to pressure their representatives in Congress to pass it immediately.
Although the initial response from Republican Congressional Leaders was surprisingly muted and cautiously receptive, this has since given way to the usual ideologically-inspired cynicism and banter. Obstructionism and recalcitrance are rife again!
Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor appear to have quickly fallen lockstep in line with the entire line-up of GOP Presidential aspirants (from Perry, Romney, Bachmann, Gingrich, Huntsman to Paul) in castigating Obama’s plan as a clever attempt to recycle the same “failed” liberal policies.
For them, it is little more than old wine in new wineskins---an unjustifiable or unacceptable binge-spending excursion on the backs of America’s “job creators!”
In fairness to GOP Leaders, though, there really is little particularly novel about the ideas that Obama outlined with this jobs bill. There’s a sense in which this, on the surface, is confounding, even perplexingly epileptic.
It’s almost like, with his overall job-approval rate plummeting and his democratic base largely crestfallen over past deals with Republicans, the president is trying to make up lost grounds by re-litigating his case before the American people.
But I must say that it really smacks of a bit of disingenuousness for President Obama to proffer these ideas knowing that barely few weeks back, he went to odd lengths to convince us that what he got out of the debt-ceiling increase and budget negotiation talks with the Republican Congressional Leadership was not just the best he could do but preeminently in the best interest of the nation.
Be that as it may, could it be that President Obama, like the wayward prodigal son that many in the Democratic camp now see him as, having seen the error in his ways, has returned to the core principles of his ideological hue?
To the degree that they are totally bereft with credible ideas as to how to move the needle on this economy, it is easy to see that Obama’s Republican would-be challengers are primarily without merit.
Although they are to the last man, and woman, beholden to the party credo---deregulate, cut taxes and spending (shrink or eliminate government), eliminate or whittle down social safety net programs, and kill or rollback the healthcare reform act (so-called “Obamacare”)---none has actually been able to articulate specifically how the cutesy, catchy phrases they have couched around these forlorn, moribund ideas can grow the economy and create jobs today.
On one hand they and the Republican Leadership in Congress assail Obama for doing nothing or too little too late even as they are denying the obvious and furiously obfuscating the facts.
Contrary to the standard GOP doctrinal line, the Congressional Budget Office and other non-partisan, independent economic analysts credit Obama’s first stimulus program with practically causing two pillars of American industry (finance and automotive) not to go under and unquestionably saving anywhere between 1.3-3.5 million jobs.
Going into the 2012 presidential election season, Obama’s second stimulus plan might prove a critical game-changer for him, at least on the economic front, but only if he plays his hand well..
Republicans seem disinterested or untaught on how best to get this economy moving again and Americans back to work. That is why they are ceaselessly throwing around empty right-wing cliché’s or perpetually bobbing and weaving!
After reportedly claiming that "anything that is akin to the stimulus bill is not going to be acceptable to the American people," House Majority Leader Cantor in the next breadth stated "the fact is we don't have the money and we've got to prioritize, and right now it's about getting people back to work." But how does one get the latter without the former, and why is it that doing basically nothing is preferred over doing what’s tested and proven to produce results?
Such is the circuitous illogic of the Republican position on jobs and the economy.
I would posit that everything will turn on the strength of President Obama’s convictions this go around. The determinate question is how hard he’s willing to push or how far he’s willing to go. Republicans are rightfully banking on him blinking or backing down as he’s done numerous times in the past. However, should Obama stay on message, dare to be resolute and craftily sell American people on the promises of this jobs plan for renewed or continuing economic revitalization, Republicans will lose traction and self-destruct.