It only took three years, but the president has finally decided that trying to appease kindergartners is easier than dealing with Congress.
U.S. President Barack Obama gave his big jobs speech to Congress last night, in which he finally seemed to realize that compromising with the looney bin that comprises the House of Representatives might not be the wisest approach to combat the nation’s crippling unemployment. Paul Krugman of The New York Times calls the plan, a mix of Republican and Democratic proposals that would cut payroll taxes for both employees and employers, start infrastructure projects, and extend unemployment benefits, “much bolder and better than I would have anticipated.” However, he sees no chance of the bill passing through Congress quickly, despite Obama’s repeated demands to “pass it now” given that Republicans dominate the lower house and are more committed to ruining Obama’s life than actually doing anything to help the nine per cent of Americans currently jobless. If nothing else, though, Krugman figures that Obama’s tough words could at least lead to an actual conversation over how to spur job creation. Call us skeptical, but asking members of Congress to put forth plans on how to tie shoelaces would probably take a year at this point. A job plan? Whoo boy.
Politico‘s Roger Simon agrees with Krugman on the likelihood of the American Jobs Act (so direct!) actually passing because of Obama’s measly 44-per-cent approval rating. “A president can demand that Congress pass a bold jobs plan when his numbers are high,” says Simon. “But when a president’s numbers are low, he can only beseech.” So far, Obama hasn’t exactly had a whole lot of luck in asking for favours from Congress, and that goes for both parties. Congressmen intent on re-election (just a quick 14 months away) will hardly want to align themselves with a bill endorsed by an unpopular president, even if no one in the House has come up with anything approaching Obama’s plan. This attitude partly explains why Congress’ approval rating is at a much more dismal 13 per cent, leading Simon to wonder if “a weak president and a weaker Congress [can] get together to make the country stronger?” They’d better hope so.
Well, at least Obama can take comfort in winning over one critic – the National Post‘s Kelly McParland, who compares the speech to Rocky Balboa gaining his second wind after being up against the ropes. “His attempts to treat Congress like reasonable, responsible adults has got him nowhere,” says McParland. “He’s been as much undermined by the pig-headed profligacy of his own party leaders as he has by the miserly zealots on the other side of the aisle.” Normally, we’re not the type to cheer on an intellectual, thoughtful guy like Obama stooping to the level of the fist-hammering rabble in Congress, but like the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Smart politicking ahead of the election aside, putting the onus squarely on the Republicans, in no uncertain terms, to pass this job bill, might just save what’s been a summer to forget for the president.